Leavenworth High’s soccer team may only be able to participate in the new, Sunflower League playoff structure for a year, but regardless, they plan on making as big an impact as possible before moving off into the sunset.
Thursday night at Pioneer Stadium, the host LVHS boys used a short barrage of exemplary play in the middle point of the second half to record a 2-0 win over Shawnee Mission North and improve their standing heading into next week’s inaugural Sunflower event.
Leavenworth (5-8, 2-7) plays Shawnee Mission Northwest Friday in hopes of moving up in their half of the two-division, Sunflower standings and play host to a playoff game on Tuesday.
“If everything stays the same we could host Free State here, Tuesday, but anything can happen tonight,” LVHS head coach Derek Wilson said speaking of the standings heading into Thursday's action. “If we win two out of our next three matches, we could end up hosting a (state) playoff game for the first time ever.
“We told our guys that they would play a lot of long ball from the start and I thought our defense shut that down beautifully. Our midfield did a pretty solid job, but our issue all season is that final third. That’s something we will be focusing on these next few weeks. The build up is there - not necessarily all the time - but it’s that final pass.”
One problem the Pioneers have is seeing the ball stick to the foot of one player a bit too long.
“It’s what I’ve been preaching since I’ve been here: Why take five touches, when you can take four,” Wilson said. “We get really sticky feet and we play it in the air too much instead of finding feet.”
In the 50th minute, senior Kobie Kensinger threaded as perfect a through ball one will see in a prep, soccer match, across the pitch and a good 25-30 yards up the field to a sprinting Justis Simon, who gathered the pass in, dribbled a few short times and then laced the ball past the North keeper, left to right across the goalmouth for a 1-0 LVHS lead.
A few minutes later, Jackson Biel doubled the Pioneer advantage when he poked a Nick Hawley pass, just past the Indians’ backline and watched the ball casually roll into the back of the onion bag to inch the Pioneers toward another win.
For the last 25 minutes, the Pioneers continued to put the pressure on and didn’t allow SMN much room to attack, although they did have a few opportunities to cut the deficit in half, but to no avail.
“It was a great win and it puts us at our best record since I’ve been here,” the senior Kensinger said. “Hopefully we can go after more than that. To put in two and get the win, is just amazing.
“You miss 100 percent of the chances you don’t take, so I figured I could make that pass (to Simon on the goal)…and it works out and we get a goal. It’s a great play and a great run and great cut back to finish that ball.”