The talk in the Lawrence High huddle following Thursday night’s 3-1 loss to Shawnee Mission West was not doom and gloom about the Lions’ sixth loss in their last eight games.
Instead, the chatter focused on positive stuff like the effort and energy the Lions showcased in the second half.
Here’s the important part: The roundtable discussion was led by the LHS captains, seniors Tor Fornelli, Matthias Reiber and Will Burg.
“This is about the time of year when the seniors start to realize that this is it,” said LHS coach Matt Anderson, whose team has four regular-season contests remaining. “I talked to all of them before this game, and I wanted them to understand that they have a choice. They can either go down as a group of seniors that others are glad is gone, or they can go down as a group of seniors that people wish were still here.”
Thursday night, through leadership, positive reinforcement and effort, it appeared as if many of the seniors prefer for it to be the latter.
Playing in a steady and miserable mist, the Lions cracked the scoreboard first when Fornelli scored early on to give LHS a 1-0 lead. The goal was just the team’s seventh in its last eight contests. Although playing with the lead energized the Lions for a bit, it didn’t last.
SM West scored the next three goals and took a 3-1 lead into the half.
It was at that point the Lions showed their true colors. Instead of sulking through a wet and rough night, they battled.
The midfielders played ferociously on both sides of the center line, the forwards continued to make run after run no matter how frustrating each empty trip became, and the defense played well enough to post a shutout during the final 40 minutes.
“That’s probably the first game all year where we came out and were the more aggressive team to start the second half,” Fornelli said. “That’s something that’s been lacking all year, and it was nice to see tonight.”
Although the majority of the credit for the better effort goes to each individual player, Anderson’s new formation didn’t hurt. After playing a 4-4-2 (four defenders, four midfielders and two forwards) all season, Anderson switched it up and employed a 4-1-4-1, which allowed the Lions more defensive support in the center of the field.
Defensively, the switch seemed to work. Now, the Lions (3-8-1) need to find a way to produce offense from the same set. So many of Lawrence’s offensive charges in the second half died in the Bermuda Triangle that sat 30 to 40 yards away from the Vikings’ net.
“We have to understand that it’s not a bunker in there,” Anderson said. “We still have to attack.”
The soggy conditions made attacking tough. Balls routinely skipped off of cleats and raced across the turf throughout the night. But that was nothing compared with the feeling the Lions left the field with after playing one of their best games to date.
“This one’s harder to take just knowing how hard we played,” Fornelli said. “We could’ve had this one.”
Lawrence will host SM East on Tuesday.