Lions earn landmark victory in OT
LHS topples East Kansas League for for first time in program history
For a split second time froze Thursday night, or maybe it just felt that way, as Rachel Pride's shot from 20 yards out caught a piece of the crossbar.
Clip the top and the ball would skim out of bounds. A solid smack also would extend the game and keep the outcome in doubt.
Not this one.
Pride, a junior on the Lansing High girls soccer team, struck the ball just perfect. The high, arching shot nose-dived, grazed the bottom of the bar and deflected down into the goal.
LHS needed 2:19 of overtime to do it, but it finally took down an opponent from the East Kansas League - the state's soccer power conference. The Lions' victims: the Blue Valley Tigers.
Lansing 2, Blue Valley 1.
"We came in knowing that we could be contenders and that we would be able to show them something about Lansing," Pride said.
The Lions and Tigers battled to a scoreless draw last year in a rain-shortened game at the Blue Valley West Soccer Complex, but the Tigers dominated all facets of the game other than the scoreboard.
The Lions have been a much more aggressive offensive team this season, though, and the spent their past five games - all shutouts - making tactical improvements. Those adjustments all paid off against the Tigers.
Lansing (7-1) weathered a few early challenges by Blue Valley before responding with a series of shots that barely missed. The Lions' tactical game was good as it successfully reversed the field and fed through balls, but they were unable to score.
The Tigers (4-4) notched the lone goal of the first half in the 20th minute when Nicole Upah was left open about 15 yards out. She gathered the ball and chipped a shot over goalkeeper Katie Nietzke for a 1-0 lead.
The goal snapped Nietzke's streak of five straight shutouts, but it was the only shot the junior keeper wouldn't stop. She made a half-dozen saves in the second half and the defensive front of Elizabeth Cristiano, Abby Hauver, Kristen Huffman, Kathryn Sebes, Lauren Algarra and Briana Hall broke up numerous other attacks.
Facing a deficit, Lansing stepped up the intensity during the final 20 minutes of the half but still was unable to score. Erin Griffen, Christine Cordes, Bianca Manago and Pride all placed shots on target that didn't find the net before halftime arrived.
"(The momentum) started to shift toward the end of the half, and it clearly shifted during the second half," LHS coach Rob Elkins said. "We were moving much more aggressively and much faster with the ball."
LHS wasted little time tying the game in the second half. Manago threaded a pass that clipped off senior midfielder Kayla Pina and deflected to Cordes about 15 yards out, and Cordes chipped it over the keeper and into the net. That tied the game less than five minutes into the half.
Both teams played with more fire the rest of the half, and both came dangerously close to scoring goals. Still, the game remained tied as the buzzer sounded.
With overtime on the way, a big victory at stake and history working against them, the Lions returned to the field and seized control immediately. A brief Tiger threat was thwarted, and Manago came up with the ball near the 18-yard box at Lansing's end of the field. With that, the victory march began.
Manago, a senior forward, raced up the left side of the field.
"I got the ball and I just saw the goal," she said.
With a defender on her right shoulder, she maintained her dribble under pressure and pushed ahead. Nearing midfield, the play opened up as she spotted Cordes and Pride.
"Chrissy kind of diverted the defenders one way," Manago said. "And Rachel was making a beautiful run."
Cordes lured the defense to the left and freed up Pride on the right. Manago passed it to Pride, and the game ended seconds later.
"A lot of people were doubting us because, yeah, we were beating people and we were winning big, but we weren't beating really quality opponents," Manago said. "But this team is a really quality team, and we had more shots than them. We definitely outplayed them, especially in the second half, so it just proves to people that we are as good as we are showing up to play."
Elkins said he was proud of his team's all-around performance, and he said it would give Lansing confidence entering its 7 p.m. Monday game against Olathe Northwest at the College Boulevard Activities Center.