Historic season ends in quarterfinals
Lansing hangs with nation’s No. 5 team for a half before falling in state playoffs
Overland Park If the Lansing High girls soccer players only had adopted a "just happy to be here" attitude regarding their inaugural state quarterfinal appearance, their 9-1 loss to the St. Thomas Aquinas Saints would've been much easier to take.
Proud as they were to have won the program's first Class 5-1A regional title on Thursday, the Lions weren't satisfied with just making it to the next round. That explained their no-fear attitude at the beginning of the game. It also explained why they were nipping at the Saints' heels at halftime with a 2-1 deficit.
But attitude and desire only take teams so far, and Aquinas lived up to its No. 5 national ranking in the second half as it pulled away for the victory.
"I'll be cheering them on," LHS senior defender Abby Hauver said of the Saints. "There won't be any shame on our part if they go on and win."
If Aquinas wins the state title this weekend, it would be the Saints' third straight crown and ninth in program history.
Still, facing a program loaded with tradition, Lansing showed plenty of guts in the first half. It weathered a flurry of early shots and kept Aquinas off the board for 24 minutes before Erin Ellefson gave the Saints a 1-0 lead.
Aquinas upped its lead to 2-0 on a goal by Geneva Magness with 3:37 left in the half. The momentum shifted back to Lansing just before halftime, however, when Bianca Manago stole the ball and began a string of passes that went through Kayla Pina and Christine Cordes before Ariana Domke ended up with it on the left wing. Domke gathered the ball, fired a shot just inside the far post and pulled the Lions within 2-1 just 14 seconds before halftime.
"Ari did a great job putting that in for us," Manago said. "It definitely helped us psychologically."
The lift didn't last long.
The Saints seized the momentum just 49 seconds into the second half when Casey Clark drilled a shot off the crossbar that dropped right to Ali Gasparovich's feet. Gasparovich tapped home from 10 yards out and extended the lead to 3-1. Ellefson scored six minutes later to make it 4-1. Moments later, the Lions' offense was dealt a severe blow when Manago went down with a pulled hamstring.
Aquinas added five more goals in the half and put the game away. Ellefson finished with three goals for STA and Magness had two.
Lansing ends its season with a 14-4 record, but it was the most successful season in program history. In addition to being the first LHS squad to advance to the state playoffs, it also won the inaugural Kaw Valley League championship and was ranked No. 5 in the state.
"Every year coach sets a higher standard and this year we have a regional championship to be proud of," said Elizabeth Cristiano, senior defender. "Hopefully the girls will just expect that next year and work hard and know that it'll take hard work to get there."
For LHS coach Rob Elkins, the loss brought a bittersweet conclusion to what was a record-breaking season for the program.
"This was a great team," he said. "This was the best team Lansing's ever fielded. It takes a team like St. Thomas to be able to knock us out. I'm very proud of them. They played well. They played as a team all season long."