Considering that Shawnee Mission East handed Lawrence High’s boys soccer team its worst loss of the season, the Lions sure feel confident entering today’s rematch — 6 p.m. at Shawnee Mission District Soccer Complex — in the Class 6A state quarterfinals.
It’s more about perspective for LHS (12-5-1), though, than brashness.
Yes, SME won 6-1 on Sept. 20. But Lawrence coach Mike Murphy said so many circumstances played into the loss to the Lancers (15-3) that the Lions almost feel like the margin was a bit of a fluke.
Though LHS played without senior starting defender Dalen Reed, out nursing a hamstring injury, Lawrence trailed just 1-0 at half (the defense cleared a cross and it landed directly at an East player’s feet, setting up a score). The Lions played uncharacteristically poor to open the second half, allowing SME to add two more goals. Then senior goalkeeper Jeff Mekus received a red card for clipping a SME forward when the two chased after a loose ball. Lawrence finished the match a man down.
“We really feel like at least this time we have all our bullets in the gun,” Murphy said.
LHS only allowed three goals or more twice this season. Since losing by five at SME, the Lions have won seven of their last 10 games, including a 2-1 overtime victory at Manhattan to clinch a regional championship.
Reed said Lawrence’s loss to SME wasn’t representative of where the team now stands.
“If we continue what we did (in the regional championship win), with them thinking, ‘Oh, we beat them 6-1 the last time, this’ll be easy,’ as long as we maintain focus then I think it’ll be a really close game,” Reed said.
Senior midfielder and captain Justin Riley said the Lions are happy to face SME again.
“This time around, it’s playoffs, too, so anything can happen,” he said. “If we can play our game I think we can give them a close game and actually win it.”
Because of the Lancers’ size and skill up front, as well as in the midfield, Riley said Lawrence’s defense — led by Reed, Connor Henrichs, Parker Davies and Bray Kelley — and midfield will have to collectively slow down SME.
Avenging an early-season loss at Manhattan, Riley said, felt good, and the Lions would like to do the same against the Lancers to advance to the state semifinals.
Added Murphy: “They were glad that this was our draw, because it’s a chance to really redeem ourselves.”