Lawrence High soccer making offseason strides
Lawrence High’s boys soccer team is thin in terms of varsity experience that will be returning for the upcoming season, but expectations have not changed for LHS coach Mike Murphy and the Lions.
Murphy planned out a summer schedule that has the Lions traveling to tournaments throughout the Midwest to gain experience against quality teams. The Lions will play a total of 17 matches between friendlies and tournament games by summer’s end, and they have already tasted some success. A majority of LHS’ varsity squad competed in a three-day tournament in Iowa a week and a half ago, and the Lions posted a 3-2 record.
“I think that’s maybe the first time we’ve come out of there with a winning record, so that’s really good,” senior Brennan Davies said. “We’ve got a pretty young team. We don’t have much leadership in the senior area, but it’s going really well.”
Davies is taking it upon himself this summer to fill the void of that leadership role.
“It is something we lacked last year. We had a lot of seniors, but none of them really took the role of a true leader,” Davies said. “If we can get someone like me or Piper (Hubbell) to really step up and be that vocal leader on the field, I think that will help. Especially with the young guys.”
Hubbell, Piper and the rest of the Lions will have another full slate of matches to wrap up the week. LHS will scrimmage De Soto tonight before playing friendlies against Wichita East, Hutchinson and Derby on Saturday in Salina. Murphy has been focusing on fundamentals, quickness and core strengthening to get the team to buy in to this season’s motto.
“Our theme to this year has been ‘Lion strong.’ We’re really trying to make them a little bit more mentally and physically tough,” Murphy said. “That all has to start in the summer. You can’t just expect in the fall season to walk in with 10 practices and start playing and expect them to be there.”
Junior Charlie Carr, who Murphy hopes will have a big impact as a midfielder, knows that the speed work that Murphy has installed this summer will be key, as well as being more physical than last year.
“A second can make a difference if there is a through ball or something,” Carr said. “It’s important to be there first.”
While the Lions’ ultimate summer goal is to be much improved by the time of their season opener Friday, Aug. 28 against Manhattan, they will have a good test to see where they are in two weeks.
“We’re actually doing a showcase tournament in St. Louis July 9-11,” Murphy said. “The thing that I really like about that is that it will give particularly our upperclassmen some exposure to college coaches.”
Murphy believes that the Lions will also be back at full strength by the time they play in St. Louis, as goalkeeper Jeremiah Barbe is currently sidelined with a stress fracture in his wrist. Barbe suffered the injury in Iowa while helping the Lions earn a win in a shootout, and he has impressed his teammates as he steps in for Andrew Ornburn, who graduated last year.
“He has been looking good,” said Davies of Barbe. “We had a PK shootout in Iowa and he guessed right on every single penalty and saved I think two or three, so he’s looking really strong. I think he’ll be really good.”
With Barbe in between the pipes and Davies stepping into the center back position that was vacated by Ellis Springe, Murphy believes he has good pieces in place defensively. Offensively, Murphy is looking for big contributions from forwards Cain Scott and Avery German-Martinez.
The Lions went 8-7-2 in 2014, with their season ending with a 2-0 loss to Free State in a first-round regional matchup. The loss to the Firebirds left a bad taste in the Lions’ mouths, which has served as another motivational factor to gear up for the season.
“Everyone is improving week by week,” Scott said. “We’re going to need the entire summer to still get better, but I think by the time the season rolls around, we’ll look like a strong team.”