On an evening where most prep athletic events were being postponed due to cold weather that would make the Arctic take notes, two girls’ soccer teams said ‘Why not?’
The Leavenworth girls played host to Lawrence Free State to kick off the Pioneers’ final campaign in the Sunflower League and despite a brave and competitive showing, the result just wasn’t enough.
Leavenworth (2-1-1, 0-1) saw its unbeaten start to the season come to a halt as Free State used an advanced midfield and speed all around the pitch to keep the Pioneers at bay in a 3-0 win.
Leavenworth was undone by a defensive gaff early in the contest - to end the defense’s scoreless streak at 195 minutes - and then a goal in the 60th minute and a lovely, floating free kick from 30 yards out that LVHS goalie Liz LaDuron couldn’t get to.
Pioneers’ head coach Derek Wilson was happy with the disappointment his team showed a year after they were content with a 7-0 defeat to the same Free State club.
“I’d give (the performance) a seven, that is a very possession-dominant team and that’s how they always are and I thought we hold our own against them,” Wilson said, noting that Free State held the advantage for about 60 percent of the game. “What impressed me most was our faces when we came off the pitch. Last couple of years we would have been happy to walk off with a 3-0 loss to Free State. This year, our girls are clearly upset that we let in a few goals that shouldn’t have gone in. I can live with how we played even if it isn’t the result we wanted.”
On an extremely cold spring day, the Pioneers’ offense struggled to get many looks at the goal, getting outshot 11-4, but they had plenty of chances to link up, but couldn’t find that finishing touch.
Leavenworth trailed 1-0 at halftime and had some early ventures toward the Free State goal, but could not convert.
Their best chance game when sophomore Kaylee Shaw threaded a perfect feed to classmate Alexis Roan, as she headed into an attack, but the latter’s shot just missed wide by about 18 inches.
“I am disappointed in that final third,” Wilson said. “We didn’t have any really good chances and we had a couple where the big touches just took it out of us. We just need to do better in that final third, but most high school teams struggle with that the most.
“I hope to still be in the middle of the pack (in the Sunflower League). I’d like to be playing for that middle place - kind of like our boys - maybe a little higher.”
Free State would finalize the win with goals in the 60th minute and in the last few before the final buzzer.
“We didn’t do too terrible, we are still finding stuff to work on and we are still a young team,” senior Pioneer Maggie Weber said. “We are going in the right direction. In the past few years, we haven’t had a lot of opportunities to score and now that we are, we are having trouble getting used to making those shots and shooting those corners. We need to finish the opportunities that we do have, because we definitely do get the ball down the field and get shots off.
“They were pretty fast and had some fast midfielders that really challenged us, but we stayed on them and took them down as much as we could. We are giving up less shots (taken) and we have a great defense this year which is a big improvement and really helps us. We just need to get our offense together…we just have to finish.”