Lions looking for statement wins against IMAC, Shawnee Heights
Lansing High girls' soccer coach Rob Elkins knows his Lions are good, but are they the best team ever in the program's first four seasons?
Elkins isn't sure just yet.
"Some of the girls were asking me that (on Tuesday) because we had a pretty good team last year," Elkins said, comparing this year's 11-2 squad to the one that finished 12-5 in 2004. "They were different even though a majority of the girls were out there. They said 'Do you think we'd beat our team last year?' I said 'I think if you played 10 games you'd win half of them and they'd win half of them.' They're as good as last year's team. They're better in some ways, but last year's team was better in some ways."
Calling the squads equal may catch some by surprise, but Elkins is waiting for the 2005 Lions to put a good scare into one of the state's upper-echelon programs - or even knock one off - before he will definitively say this team is better.
That's not to say he hasn't liked what he's seen. Elkins said he is very pleased with the progress his team has made throughout the season, especially in earning victories over quality opponents such as De Soto, Kansas City Christian, Mill Valley and sweeping Piper with a pair of wins (2-0 and 3-0) on Tuesday.
He also praised his players for their sense of unity and endless positive attitude.
"This team is really tight. They're sisters. They're friends. They've bonded really well, and it shows on the field," he said. "I haven't heard a single negative comment by any player this season. That's one of the things we pushed for at the beginning of the season is to get a group of girls to come together as one. Now the word 'me' doesn't exist. We've changed that to the word 'we.'"
Elkins still is waiting for that marquee game, though.
Fortunately for the Lions, Elkins has every reason to believe that breakout game is coming. He saw plenty of glimpses of it during their 3-0 loss at Olathe Northwest on April 25. LHS struggled in the first half but clicked on all cylinders in the final 40 minutes.
"I was so proud of my team during that second half (at Northwest) because we got our heads in the game, we focused and we were able to execute plays," senior defender Christine Southard said.
That loss forced Lansing to toughen up, and it has played like a state contender ever since. Since the loss to the Ravens, LHS has outscored its opponents 23-1. It cruised through senior day and sent seniors Kelsey Fallesen, Jessica Hauver, Monique Richardson, Kendra Sickinger and Southard out with a win.
The Lions have won five straight games heading into their 4:30 p.m. showdown today against Immaculata at the University of St. Mary. LHS already has earned a share of the Northeast Kansas Soccer League crown, but a win today would complete a perfect run through the league and clinch an outright championship.
"We want it all for ourselves," Elkins said of the NEKSL title.
Another "measuring stick" game comes on Friday when defending state champion Shawnee Heights comes to town for a 6 p.m. Friday game. Wins in both of those games could finally set this team apart in Elkins' mind.
The Lions crashed the state polls for the first time this season when they entered the Kansas Soccer Coaches' Assn. poll as the No. 10-ranked team in Class 5-1A.