As Lawrence High’s winter sports programs prepare to open their seasons, the number of athletes who already have experienced varsity success varies from team to team.
Here is a look at what the Lions expect to do on the basketball court, in the swimming pool and on the wrestling mats.
When Lawrence’s boys basketball team takes the court for the first time this season, have a roster handy. Among the current pride of Lions, only senior shooting guard Jake Mosiman saw heavy varsity minutes a year ago.
Still, LHS coach Mike Lewis isn’t about to go into this season calling it a rebuilding project.
“Potential is the key word,” the fourth-year coach said. “We’re young and we’re small and we’re inexperienced.”
Lewis said, like Mosiman, Lawrence’s less seasoned players — senior guards Austin Abbott and Drake Hofer, senior forwards Derrick Williams and Sterling Fuller, junior guard Connor Henrichs, junior post Jacob Seratte, sophomore guard Anthony Bonner and freshman point guard Justin Roberts — work hard, compete and play unselfish basketball.
“We will be lacking experience at the varsity level,” the coach said, “but our guys will catch on quickly and compete against anyone.”
Lewis said it might be a tad cliche in the world of high school hoops, but his primary objective is to get his young team playing its best by February. Prior to that, though, the Lions will get challenged early, beginning with a Friday road trip to Junction City for the season opener. After that, LHS travels to the Blue Valley Shooutout and plays host to Free State — all before the winter break. Lewis admitted that could be challenging.
After seeing his girls basketball team suffer through 15 losses a season ago, LHS coach Nick Wood thinks this winter might not be so cruel to the Lions.
Returning for LHS are junior forward Kionna Coleman, sophomore guard Marissa Pope and seniors Anna Wright, Kylie Seaman, Bri Anderson, Krista Costa and Emma Kelly — all of whom endured the hardships of playing a Sunflower League schedule as a young, inexperienced group.
“There were tough times last year,” Wood said. “But the experiences they went through last season are definitely gonna pay off this year.”
The fourth-year Lawrence coach said junior Alethia McKinney and sophomore Jolona Shield could help the Lions this season, too. And Wood feels like having so few inexperienced players has put the team ahead of schedule.
“This is the furthest along we’ve been in November,” Wood said.
That’s good news for the Lions, who open the season Friday night at home against Emporia.
“We were fortunate enough to win a tough game down at their place last season,” he said, “so we know they will be ready for us.”
The players, the coach added, have put in the work and are ready to start their season: “Now it’s just a matter of going out and putting the final pieces together and actually playing the game.”
If Lawrence’s boys swimming team wants to match its finish from last winter — sixth in the Sunflower League, 11th at the Class 6A state meet — coach Kent McDonald said he will need point production from every Lion who jumps in the pool.
LHS lost a talented group of seniors — led by school record-breaker Zach Andregg — to graduation. So it will be up to returning seniors Adam Edmonds, Nathan Evers, Tyler Bradfield, Matt Day and Patrick Bennett, and juniors Tim Schraad, John Eakes and Caleb Axlund to replace the points the Lions will be losing.
McDonald expects to see the group improve throughout the coming months.
“Everyone is important to us this season,” the seventh-year LHS coach said. “We have a hard-working group of guys who are really trying to get better and help the team.”
That includes newcomers sophomore Jake Jimenez and freshman Izaiah Bowie, both of whom will be diving. McDonald said a number of the team’s members are new to competitive swimming, but he hopes they will find a way to contribute, too. The biggest obstacle for LHS entering its season opener — 3:30 this afternoon at the Free State Invitational — will be getting the new swimmers and divers up to speed.
“They still have a lot of work to do in order to make an impact,” McDonald said.
Coach Pat Naughton’s Lawrence wrestling team might have lost some great talent to graduation, but with five former state-placers coming back this season, the Lions will open the winter as the No. 4 program in 6A.
Seniors Hunter Haralson (132 pounds), Caden Lynch (145) and Andrew Denning (170), junior Garrett Girard (120) and sophomore Tristan Star (113) all own state medals. Ryan Walter (138 pounds) and Alex Jones (285) are former state qualifiers, too.
“They’re really excited about building on last year,” Naughton said.
The coach thinks LHS will be strong throughout the lineup with Xavier Kenney, Tim Thongone, Ryan Bellinger, Alan Clothier and Malik Davis all figuring into the team’s starting lineup. And even though Bellinger will open the season as an injured bystander, Naughton said both Isaias Rojo and Akram Laytimi are capable of filling in.
After the Lions finished third at state last winter, Naughton said his team is filled with grapplers who are salivating about getting a chance to help LHS contend for a state championship once again. But he added there are some unanswered questions with 22 freshmen in the program.
“We’re so young that we just don’t know where it’s all gonna lead to,” Naughton said.
LHS opens its season Saturday at Leavenworth.