Lions top KC Christian, roll to 5-0
Team effort fuels LHS victory
Kendra Sickinger wears eye-catching bronze cleats, but it's her golden toe that has been attracting the most attention lately.
Thursday afternoon was no exception as Sickinger, a Lansing High senior soccer player, buried her second straight game-winner for the Lions as they knocked off rival Kansas City Christian, 2-0, at the Lansing soccer field.
"I love those shoes," said freshman goalkeeper Katie Nietzke about her senior captain's preferred footwear. "I want them so bad."
Nietzke might not be the only one interested in Sickinger's sneakers if she continues at her current scoring pace. Sickinger has four goals and three assists in five games, and she has shown no signs of slowing down soon.
"She's such a big leader for us and she helps out so much with her passes and her through-balls," Nietzke said. "She's just awesome."
LHS improved to 5-0 with the victory and improved to 5-1 all-time against Kansas City Christian. Lansing's victory Thursday wasn't all about Sickinger, though. It was the Lions' best all-around team effort of the season, and they needed every last contribution to remain undefeated.
KCC boasted one of the most dangerous goal-scorers in the state in junior forward Samantha Pool, as well as a talented, physical midfield. Pool challenged the Lions a handful of times in the first half, but each time the defense stepped up and kept the ball out of the net.
Lansing had its share of scoring opportunities, too. Sickinger was the only one to finish a shot, though, as she corralled a cross pass from sophomore Abby Hauver and buried it into the net for a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute.
"It was nice to score early because that really put a lot of pressure on KC Christian," LHS coach Rob Elkins said.
The one-goal advantage stood through halftime, but just barely. Pool weaved through the LHS defense as time was ticking down on the clock. She got to within 10 yards of the goal when she unleashed a right-footed blast at the near post. Nietzke - a first-year goalie - held her ground, lunged to her left and snatched the shot out of the air. A split-second later the buzzer sounded and Lansing held its lead at intermission.
"Katie Nietzke showed her true colors today," Elkins said. "She came through and she made the stops when she needed to make the stops. It's a real confidence-booster for her, too, because she knows she just faced a talented team."
The Lions turned up the heat in the second half and outdueled KCC in an overly physical 40 minutes of soccer. The LHS defense fended off a few more challenges but effectively limited Pool's offensive opportunities. Then, in the 59th minute, freshman erin Griffen ripped a shot that deflected off a KCC defender and skipped into the goal for a 2-0 advantage.
The lead stood and the Lions notched their fourth straight shutout.
Elkins praised his players for their gutsy effort and for filling their roles perfectly.
"I'm very proud of them," Elkins said. "They are bonded. They are a team. They battled. They backed each other up. And they know that they earned their win today. This is going to do a lot for their confidence."
LHS next plays at 4 p.m. Monday at Mill Valley. The Jaguars are the only team to score on Lansing all year. The Lions beat Mill Valley 3-2 in their season-opener on March 29.