Archive for Saturday, May 5, 2007

Heights edges Lansing in 2OT thriller

No. 5 Lions hang tough with third-ranked T-Birds for 97 minutes

May 5, 2007

The Lansing DAZE community festival kicked off four blocks away, but the main event in town Friday night took place at Lansing Middle School where the Lansing High girls soccer team played host to Shawnee Heights in a clash of top five-ranked teams.

The game had all of the drama and intensity that a high-profile clash should: a noisy crowd, four yellow cards -three on Heights, numerous close calls and endless effort. It also took two overtime periods before the third-ranked T-Birds handed the fifth-ranked Lions a 2-1 defeat.

Despite the loss, LHS coach Rob Elkins said he was proud of his team's performance, and he said his players should be proud, too.

"They know how good they are. They know that they are contenders," he said. "They know they can get the job done, and they shouldn't be intimidated by anybody."

Ranked for the first time in the Class 5-1A poll, the Lions hoped to send a message that they were deserving of such recognition. The pressure was high, but they were relaxed.

"Before the game we were all talking, and we were like, 'We all love this game, and we all love playing for each other, so let's just go out there and have fun,'" senior captain Elizabeth Cristiano said. "I think that really alleviated a lot of the pressure, and the fans and the crowd just pumped us up even more."

Lansing was sharp from the start. It controlled the momentum for a majority of the first half and outshot Heights 7-6 during the first 40 minutes. The Lions set the tone early as Erin Griffen and Allison Dillon unleashed shots during the first four minutes. The T-Birds countered with a series of long through balls and four shots that didn't escape the grasp of goalkeeper Katie Nietzke.

LHS answered with multiple unsuccessful attacks before finally finding the back of the net. The Lions strung together a series of passes before Christine Cordes fed a pass to Bianca Manago about 15 yards out. Manago gathered the ball and slipped a shot just inside the near post past T-Bird goalkeeper Danielle Butler's outstretched arms. That gave the Lions a 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute.

Lansing's lead stood through halftime, but the momentum shifted to Heights in the second half. All three of Lansing's second-half shots came during the first five minutes.

Then the Lions made their first mistake and the T-Birds capitalized. The Lions failed to clear a ball out of the penalty area. T-Bird junior forward Corrine Shelby got a foot on the ball and put it into the net to tie the game in the 51st minute.

The Lions' defense was stretched and tested repeatedly during the remainder of the half, but Kathryn Sebes, Abby Hauver, Elizabeth Cristiano, Briana Hall and Liane Swisher were up to the task.

Heights almost ended the game during the final 15 seconds of regulation, but Shelby drilled the crossbar and Kacy Covert's follow was snuffed out by a diving Nietzke as time expired.

Rachel Pride fired two shots for Lansing during the first overtime but was unable to convert. Then Griffen nearly ended the game with a low line-drive shot on goal one minute into the second overtime.

A perfectly placed blast by Covert from 20 yards out on the left side dove under the crossbar with 3:15 left in the second overtime and ended the game.

"It's hard to play so well and not come out with a win," sophomore defender Kathryn Sebes said. "But we're happy that we played so well, and we know we can do it."

Elkins said his team's performance should give it confidence as the postseason nears, and he said it's possible Lansing and Heights could meet in the state quarterfinals if both teams make it that far. That, he said, is an opportunity his team would welcome.

"They like a game like this," he said. "We don't want anything handed to us; we want to earn it. Even though they didn't get a win tonight, it almost feels like one. They had good teamwork and good intensity. The girls should be very proud."

Lansing (11-3) next plays at 4 p.m. Monday at Maranatha. Then it closes out the regular season at 6 p.m. Wednesday at home against Piper.

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