A lot of things had to happen for Lawrence High boys soccer coach Mike Murphy to allow his backup senior goalie Julio Salazar to attempt a direct free kick in attacking territory.
Thursday night against Shawnee Heights, the opportunity started to come together. It was Senior Night. The Lions had a comfortable lead. There was a slow restart because of a yellow card, so LHS had time to set everything up.
Salazar ran from his position in the goal box, lined up the kick from approximately 40 yards out and lofted the ball with his left foot over the goalie’s head and into the back of the net.
“It was luck,” Salazar said.
The Lions (4-11-1) probably won’t get any scoring from their goalie in their regional matchup at 6 tonight at Manhattan High (7-7-1). But the underclassmen will continue to look to their four seniors — Jeff Hermesch, Enoch Quaye, Brian Thimmesch and Salazar — for leadership on and off the field like they have all season.
The Lions lost to Manhattan in the first game of their season, 1-0. Murphy said he told his team early in the season that it wasn’t building just to win the first game.
He emphasized that the Lions were building to win the last game.
“I said, ‘Your legacy in this program is showing these guys how to work, staying positive and doing all the things that it takes to model the behavior of champions,” Murphy said.
Hermesch and Thimmesch hold down the middle of the defense — Hermesch playing sweeper and Thimmesch playing stopper. Quaye was promoted to the varsity team a couple of weeks ago after playing some varsity as a junior.
Murphy said the Lions’ brutal Sunflower League schedule could give them an advantage over teams in the central region that haven’t faced the same level of competition.
Hermesch has noticed the younger players stepping up in recent weeks. Junior goalie Tanner Click has also been a vocal leader.
No matter what happens tonight, Salazar understands his role in helping Lawrence High’s younger players continue to get better.
“They’re going to be leaders for the next generation,” Salazar said.
The Lions are seeded seventh in their regional bracket. If they win tonight, they will face the winner of No. 3 Junction City (7-7-2) and No. 6 Wichita Heights (5-11-0) on Thursday in Manhattan.