Nothing inspires change quite like falling victim to a shutout.
LHS soccer v. Topeka High
Images from Tuesday night's game between Lawrence High and Topeka High.
After Lawrence High’s boys soccer team failed to score in its season-opening loss Friday, coach Mike Murphy and the Lions discussed the need for generating some offense. To foster those efforts, Murphy started three forwards in the Lions’ formation, instead of two.
With seniors Gavin Fischer, Robert Lyan and Luke Matthews up top Tuesday night, LHS spread out Topeka’s defense and had no trouble forging a 6-0 home victory.
Possession wasn’t necessarily an issue for Lawrence in its 1-0 loss to Manhattan four days earlier, but Matthews, who scored the game’s final goal in the 77th minute, said the change made an impact.
“That gave us a lot more offense and made us able to play through the wings more and get the ball out wide,” Matthews said.
Murphy isn’t sure if the formation will stick, though, with teams better than THS (0-1) likely more capable of exploiting it. Still, it did the trick in the Lions’ first win of the year. That old cliche of the best defense being a good offense, Murphy said, applied for Lawrence (1-1).
“If we control the ball, if we possess and we run the ball back on their half, that’s the best way to play defense,” the third-year LHS coach said, noting the Lions attacked the ball to control the game. “In that sense it was a team defensive effort that keeps that back line from having to do a lot.”
The Lions asserted themselves with a dominating first half, out-shooting visiting Topeka, 16-4. Lyan put Lawrence ahead permanently just 10 minutes in. He sprinted down the middle of the field, past Topeka’s defense for a quick touch and goal.
“We got the first goal,” Lyan said, “and that was that.”
Just more than five minutes later, senior midfielder Conner Murphy strategically trailed the action to set himself up for an easy score in the box, giving the Lions a 2-0 advantage.
The goals kept coming in the 18th minute, when senior Nick Andrews flew into a crowd and converted on a header.
Senior midfielder Justin Riley created Lawrence’s fourth and final goal of the first half in the 36th minute with a violent boot from more than 25 yards out. Riley’s shot rocketed into the upper right corner, giving Topeka goalkeeper Cain Mathis zero chance of stopping it.
The barrage continued in the second half, when Lawrence booted nine more shots to Topeka’s one.
In the 55th minute, Fischer kicked the ball away from Mathis, who was playing up in the box, before the keeper could grasp it. With the goalie down on the turf, Fischer shot the ball into a wide open net for a 5-0 Lions lead.
Matthews’ victory-capping goal came with less than four minutes remaining. Parker Davies sent a free kick at backup keeper James Lucatero (Mathis was injured on the previous goal), who punched it away. But Matthews took a few quick steps toward the rebound and headed the ball in on the right side.
“We’re always supposed to crash the goal,” he said, “as soon as it’s shot.”
While Lawrence’s offense did most of the damage, its senior goalie, Jeff Mekus, produced three big saves in the shutout win.
Said Murphy: “We felt good about what we did tonight.”
Next up for LHS is a Sept. 4 game at Blue Valley West.