A so long, farewell win for the Pioneers

After years of battling in an attempt to be a relevant Sunflower League soccer team, the Leavenworth High boys have found themselves doing that this fall.

The irony is that it comes on the heels of a decision last spring to leave the league for a myriad of reasons, but mainly, competitive ones.

Well don’t tell these Pioneers that they can’t compete as Tuesday night at Pioneer Stadium the LVHS boys, behind a Justis Simon goal in the 48th minute, defeated Lawrence 1-0 in a Sunflower crossover playoff game to move to 6-9 overall and win their final game in the conference.

The overall wins are the most in a decade and the 3-8 Sunflower mark is also among the tops in that time frame according to head coach Derek Wilson.

“We could have easily gone 5-6 (in Sunflower League),” Wilson said. “Our midfield has really come together. Both our shape defensively and offensively were pretty bad for a while. My JV coach (Brenden Olesen) is really good with the midfield and so I let him work with them for a couple of days and it has really showed. You can’t let your pride get in front of you. If you know coach is better than you at something, then why would I hold my team back because of my ego?

“We’ve been there all season, we just were missing those little things.”

The players are optimistic going forward as they wrap the regular season at Topeka West on Wednesday before next week’s playoffs.

“It feels fantastic after being here four years and being crushed and creamed and having less than four wins a season, this is fantastic,” Leavenworth senior Carson Lucas said. “I think we played pretty well and about 90 percent of the time we were on their side taking shots. We just need to start putting more in the net and we will see more results the way we’d want to see them.

“This is the team to win a regional title and be the team to go to state for the first time for Leavenworth.”

Lucas attributed this group’s chemistry in part to former coach Ken Lott who also worked with the varsity players who also competed for him with other youth teams.

“They’ve had better individual players here, but this is a better team,” Lucas said. “It’s the chemistry that puts us over the top.”

Wilson thought his team controlled most of the match, but fell into the lull of allowing pressure to make the Pioneers wobble a bit. Something that can’t happen Wednesday, with a possible home, Class 5A playoff game in the cards if they can win.

“It will also depend on what other teams are doing, but we are going to finish in that top middle (of the standings),” Wilson said. “I am hoping this win and the next one could push us up.”