Soccer team ends season
Lansing Two games. Two nights. One an overtime thriller. The other a 6-0 blowout.
What's the lesson for the Tonganoxie soccer team?
It is hard to be a low seed in the playoffs, competing on consecutive nights.
The Chieftains' season ended at Lansing last week after the team fought the night before through four overtimes and two shootouts against Turner.
While Harold Pittman, Tonganoxie soccer coach, didn't use the previous night as an excuse for the loss at Lansing, it was obvious the Chieftains didn't have the legs to play with Lions.
In the first half, Lansing pushed hard, attacking the Tonganoxie defense and goal relentlessly.
The Lions scored five goals in the first half, most on crossing passes the Chieftains would not normally allow.
If the Lions appeared more agile, quicker to the ball and faster, it was more a product of the Chieftains' tired legs than the Lions' superior speed. After all, the Chieftains played this team to a virtual standstill in their previous meeting, a 1-0 Tonganoxie loss.
At halftime, there wasn't much for Pittman to say.
"Don't forget to have fun," he instructed the team. "Don't give up."
The team took his words to heart. While the Chieftains had few scoring opportunities in the second half and never threatened the lead, they held the Lions to a single second-half goal.
After the game, Pittman acknowledged that the fall had been tough.
"We've had a frustrating season," Pittman said. "We've had three or four real close games."
Among those games was the previous loss to Lansing.
However, the Chieftains should have high expectations heading into next season.
Only three seniors graduate from the team.
Tonganoxie soccer fans should expect to see more of Dave Gepner leaping high in the air to grab a corner kick. Fans should look forward to Kyle Rodell sprinting to the ball, beating an opponent and making a deft pass to a teammate.
"I'm looking forward to next season," Pittman said.
It's a sentiment echoed by Rodell, one of the emotional leaders of the team.
He said the team should benefit from the experience of returning players.
And, the close losses of this year that left the players and coaches disappointed more often than not should be wins next year, Rodell said.
"It has been an emotional season," Pittman said.