Top-tier opponents bring out the best in Lansing soccer
Judging by the way Lansing High girls soccer coach Rob Elkins talked Monday after his team's game against No. 5-ranked Olathe Northwest, you'd have thought LHS won the game.
In fact, the Lions actually were defeated 2-0. Elkins was less concerned about the tally in the wins column, though. He was looking for other gains from the game. Specifically, he wanted to see just how tough his players could be mentally and how much poise they could show against a top-tier opponent.
Elkins saw both.
"This is really good for our players," Elkins said. "It gives them a lot of confidence. When I first came to Lansing, the team would get nervous when playing against some of these high-profile schools like Bishop Miege. We would approach that game questioning ourselves.
"If we were to play Bishop Miege next, I think our girls would go into that game pretty confident that they were the ones going to walk away with the win. So this has been very good for their morale and their attitudes."
Part of Elkins' plan this season was to beef up the schedule and challenge his team with better competition during the regular season so Lansing would be more prepared for the postseason. The hope was that against 6A foes Blue Valley and Olathe Northwest, as well as upcoming 5A opponents Shawnee Heights and defending state champion Blue Valley West, Lansing would be competitive, play tough soccer and maybe even steal a win or two. LHS played Blue Valley to a scoreless tie April 5 and then hung around with Olathe Northwest for a long time.
"I think some people came here tonight wanting to see how badly they might beat us," Elkins said of Northwest. "They dominated the game. I have to admit that. It was on our half of the field most of the game. But we saw the same scrappy attitude that we had in the Blue Valley game. A lot of players were making some really great individual efforts. I'm pleased."
Elkins' impression that his players grew more confident by playing tougher competition was an accurate perception. His players shared the exact same sentiments.
"It prepares us a lot because there's such better competition," sophomore goalkeeper Katie Nietzke said. "For us to go out there and just play like we did tonight and show ourselves that we can go out there and play like that, it makes us so much more confident for postseason."
Junior midfielder Bianca Manago said the Lions actually preferred to play more big-name opponents, even if it meant taking a few losses along the way.
"We get completely excited about them," she said. "We get more excited for these than some of our league games, (for) which we probably should get just as pumped. We look forward to a challenge, and we play better against tough teams."
Lansing bounced back from the loss with a 5-2 victory Tuesday at Maranatha Academy. Junior Abby Livingston-Shelburne led the way with two goals. Junior Kristen Huffman, junior Brittany Swisher and sophomore Christine Cordes all scored in the victory. Manago and Rachel Pride each had two assists.