Stilwell — When the Lawrence High boys soccer team’s search for an offensive spark never materialized in the second half of its first-round playoff game against Blue Valley Monday night, a little luck helped the Tigers end the Lions’ season, 2-1, at Blue Valley School District Soccer Complex.
An unexpected bounce on a free kick in the 65th minute gave BVHS all the cushion it needed, because LHS couldn’t duplicate the kind of success that allowed the No. 13 seed to take a 1-0 first-half lead on the road.
After Lawrence sophomore Piper Hubbel picked up a yellow card while defending outside of his team’s box, Blue Valley senior Ben McDonald fired a free kick from the right side directly at LHS defenders Zach Alexander and Matt Mantooth, who were positioned to stand in McDonald’s way. They did their job, but the ball ricocheted off the slender wall they had created and into the far-left corner of the net to give the No. 4 seed Tigers a 2-1 edge.
Lions coach Mike Murphy spoke with Hubbel about the untimely foul and said the young player would learn from the mistake. But the coach didn’t place any fault on the sophomore, nor Alexander and Mantooth, for what transpired.
“You’ve gotta score more goals. It’s the playoffs. You’re facing good teams, and you’ve gotta put more than one in,” Murphy said. “One more goal gets it to overtime. Then in overtime, anything can happen.”
The lone goal for LHS (7-9-1) arrived in the 36th minute. Blue Valley junior goalkeeper Erik Rimmer left the safety of his spot in front of the goal to pursue aggressively a loose ball about 16 yards out, and Lions forward Hunter Kelley made him pay. The LHS senior flicked the ball over the keeper’s reach and into the net for a 1-0 Lawrence lead.
Rimmer (two saves) almost paid for his assertiveness again much later, in the 57th minute, but when Lawrence senior Narito Mendez won the ball with the keeper out of position, this time three defenders from BVHS (13-4) had his back. They lined up in front of the goal to deny Mendez’s shot.
The Lions finished with 10 total shots and only put three on goal. In the second half, Cale Bertrand misfired high, and Parker Davies had three of his shots miss the intended target — though a crack he took in the 76th minute gave the Tigers a scare when it sailed just wide of the left post.
“I had a couple good shots, there in the second half especially, but none of them would fall,” Davies, a senior, said after his final game for LHS. “I’m just proud of our team. This is seriously one of the best games we’ve played. We didn’t have a lot of expectations coming into this season, but I definitely think we over-performed for what people thought we were gonna do.”
Early in the second half, Blue Valley junior Matt Jarnevic pushed the ball into the box from the right side and skipped a low shot past Lawrence goalkeeper Andrew Ornburn (four saves), off the far left post and into the back of the net to tie the game, 1-1, in the 48th minute.
The pair of BVHS scores came on 11 total shots — six of which were on goal.
The Lions’ defense altered and negated Blue Valley attacks most of the night, with Jared Roush, Sam Stephens, Mantooth, Bertrand, Ian Gabel and Connor Henrichs all having their moments.
Henrichs, another LHS senior, remained positive after the disappointing result.
“We came really far this season,” he said. “We came here tonight and played probably one of our best games all season.”