Lakers make 2nd Jay trip worth it

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

ON THE BREAK — Lake Region’s Rachel Wandishin has been a sparkplug all season, and scored a goal in last Friday’s 2-0 prelim soccer win against Spruce Mountain. (Rivet Photo)

JAY — Unlike the regular season, the playoffs carry more emotion and sense of urgency since teams know there is no tomorrow if they lose.

Lake Region players found themselves on an emotional rollercoaster last week, making the long trip to Jay only to find out unsafe field conditions resulted in postponement and a return trip the next day against eighth-seeded Spruce Mountain.

“The girls were disappointed after traveling all that way on Friday. But, they handled it well.  I don't think it was too bad because it was clearly unsafe conditions,” LR Coach Lynne Harrison said. “I reminded them just how angry we would be if someone told us our field was terrible. That’s their home field, their school. The Jay players were probably angry and a little insulted that we wouldn’t play on their field. Luckily, it was the athletic directors’ and officials’ call.”

Coach Harrison expected Spruce Mountain to come out fired up “to defend their honor” on Saturday afternoon.

“I can’t understand why a team as good as they are would be made to play on such an unsafe field. The call should have been made well before we arrived on Friday,” Coach Harrison added.

Lake Region made the return trip worthwhile as Sydney Hancock and Rachel Wandishin scored late in the second half for a 2-0 win. The ninth-seeded Lakers (7-8-1), however, saw their playoff run end Tuesday when they lost 4-0 to top-ranked Morse in Bath.

Although the Lakers hadn’t seen Spruce Mountain during the regular season, Coach Harrison knew the key to stopping the Phoenix was to key on leading scorer Lexi Deering.

“Kayla Gray played fantastic defense on her (Deering). Every time she touched the ball, Kayla was there. She just shut her down completely,” Coach Harrison said. “Kayla’s sacrifice made it possible for the team to win.”

LR goalie Emily Bartlett continued her stalwart play, coming off an impressive outing against York, when she denied Deering on a penalty kick early in the game. The LR defense — led by Kasey Huntress who “dominated and was there whenever anyone needed help,” Coach Harrison said — stifled the Phoenix attack, which was limited to long-range shots that hardly challenged Bartlett.

Meanwhile, the LR offense kept getting closer and closer to scoring.

“Rachel and Sydney continually applied offensive pressure,” Coach Harrison said. And, that pressure finally paid off late in the game, sending the Lakers home with smiles on their faces. Theresa Butler set up Hancock as her pass from the midfield sailed over the Phoenix defense, sending Hancock in alone for the score with 7:10 left. Wandishin added some insurance when she stole the ball and went in alone on net with 6:05 left.

Onto Bath, Coach Harrison knew her club had to play a perfect game to beat the Shipbuilders, who sported to big guns responsible for 63 goals this season.

“I always tell my teams two key things that I truly believe about sports.  The first is that on any given day, any team can beat any other. Top seed, bottom seed, it doesn’t matter,” she said prior to Tuesday’s quarterfinal. “Secondly, the best thing about sports is that every single day you have the opportunity to become better than you were the day before. You can apply that to sports or you can apply it to life. We are a better team than we were in August, September, or even last Saturday.”

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