Topeka — As Thursday's regional championship soccer match between Lawrence High and Washburn Rural went on, it seemed that a miscue, and not an intentional act, likely would determine the outcome.
After two halves and nearly two full overtimes, that hunch proved to be true, as LHS fell to Washburn Rural, 1-0, in double overtime.
"I really wanted to win this one in regulation," LHS goalkeeper Emma Lumpe said. "That was our best chance. We stuck with them and really gave them a run for their money."
But the Lions' check bounced when it counted most.
The mistake that did them in was simple. On the Junior Blues' 11th corner kick of the night, junior Hilary Johnson lofted a ball to the middle of the box, where the LHS defense was the first to get a foot on it. But the first touch meant very little, as the Lions failed to clear the zone and watched as Rural's Kelsey Raiman poked the ball into the net during the 98th minute, as Lumpe fought through traffic to recover.
"We just have to get those out sooner," Lumpe said. "I'm so proud of our defense for battling all game. It's just rough with so many people in there. We have to clear the ball sooner."
After LHS hit Washburn with a burst of energy to open the game, the top-seeded Junior Blues recovered and controlled the field for the final 25 minutes of the first half. Washburn used precise passing to maintain possession and methodically worked its way up the field. But every time it got close to the LHS net, Lumpe was there to thwart off an attack.
"Emma had a phenomenal game," LHS coach Matt Anderson said. "But when you give up that many corner kicks, one of them is going to go in. I can't believe they didn't score more."
Anderson also could not believe his own team did not score more.
The Lions dominated most of the second half, out-chancing the Junior Blues in the attack zone and out-hustling them all over the field. It looked as though LHS had broken through when freshman Marley Sutter won a 50-50 ball and emerged with possession at the top of the box. Without hesitating, Sutter ripped a shot to the goal but the ball caromed off the crossbar and the game remained scoreless with 5:36 remaining.
"We get that goal, and I think we win the game," Anderson said.
Five-and-a-half minutes later the Lions nearly struck again. With time winding down and overtime appearing imminent, sophomore Kaley Tesdahl drove a low liner to the net with three seconds remaining. Washburn's Anna Ginder played the ball perfectly with her hands and sent the game to overtime with a big-time save.
"That's the storybook ending," Anderson said. "But unfortunately you don't always get it."
Despite the loss, the Lions (8-10) left the field with a feeling of accomplishment.
"If we had to lose, I'd rather lose how we did," senior Madison Bertrand said. "We all had so much intensity. We were ready to play and ready to win, and the result shows how hard we fought."