Manhattan It has been two months since Lawrence High’s boys soccer team faced Manhattan in its season-opener.
The stage will be significantly larger for the rematch — at 6 tonight at Anneberg Park in Manhattan — when the Lions (11-5-1) battle the Indians (12-4-1) for the Class 6A Central Regional 2 championship and a spot in the state quarterfinals.
LHS has lost all four of its games against Manhattan in the last three seasons. It seemed appropriate, Lions senior captain Johannes Reiber said, that Lawrence will have to go through MHS to win a regional title, especially after the Indians’ 1-0 victory at LHS on Aug. 24.
“They beat us on our field, and now we want to be able to return the favor,” Reiber said.
In the scope of the season, that game was a long time ago, and Lawrence coach Mike Murphy said the biggest part of tonight’s challenge might be playing on a grass field. The Lions practice and play their home games on artificial turf. Murphy said they have struggled on the road this year when playing on grass.
In order to get out of that funk, LHS practiced one afternoon last week on grass. Murphy said the players focused on their touches and how to put a different play on the ball. He hoped his team can turn a former negative into a positive in the postseason.
“We think we’ve got some things figured out,” the coach said, “about how we need to do stuff a little differently.”
LHS also wants to play better than it did in its playoff debut, a 2-0 Tuesday home victory against Topeka. Even in a win, Lawrence’s offense didn’t flow like it has at other times this season. Senior Gavin Fischer said the Lions will need to give Manhattan’s defense different looks by shifting and moving the ball to create gaps and attack angles.
“We’re definitely gonna have to work on connecting passes in the middle,” Fischer said, “and communicating and distributing it wide quicker.”
Manhattan defeated Free State, 4-1, on Tuesday to advance to the regional final.
Lawrence has won six of its last eight games.