Lansing boys soccer advances to state final four

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Lansing boys soccer took another step toward a third consecutive state title with a 3-2 victory over Bishop Grimes in the regional round of the state tournament on Saturday in Liverpool. The season’s theme of widespread contributions continued in this game, with three different Bobcats tallying goals.

While Lansing is all about distribution of scoring, the opposite can be said of its opponents, the Bishop Grimes Cobras. Coming into the playoff matchup, Byam Mugushu led the Cobras with a ridiculous 37 goals in the year. In comparison, Lansing’s leading goal scorer, Sam Panzer, has 15 goals.

However, it was the Bobcats who struck first. At the 15-minute mark of the first half, Sam Panzer sent a through ball into the box that perfectly split the defense onto the foot of a charging Morgan Somchanhmavong, who drilled it into the back of the net. The goal was Somchanhmavong’s third in his last two games.

Just five minutes later, the aforementioned Mugushu burned past a pair of Lansing defenders to tie the game at one. Coach Benji Parkes discussed the abilities of the high-scoring Cobra.

“With his speed and technical ability, it’s difficult to defend him one-on-one, so we really tried to get guys behind the ball and force him in a direction where we had support,” Parkes said. “It worked for the most part. He got free a couple times. Good players find a way to beat the strategy and get a couple of goals.”

With six minutes left in the half, senior Mason Edwards found himself behind the defense off a pass and drilled a shot through the legs of the Bishop Grimes goaltender, Matt Tarby.

“To be honest, I thought I was offside,” Edwards said. “So, I just hit it as hard as I could, and it just happened to set perfectly right through his legs and rolled on through. We were just hyped.”

The Cobras did not go down quietly, though. With just over 90 seconds left in the first half, Lansing was struggling to clear the ball away from their net, and it ended up inadvertently hitting defender Jack Collins in the hand. Mugushu was awarded a penalty kick as a result, and he tied the game at two.

After the first 40 minutes of play, the game was tied, but Edwards claimed Lansing had Bishop Grimes right where they wanted them due to the strong winds that were blowing from one side of the field to the other.

“In the first half, we chose to be against the wind because we knew that they were going to boot the ball every single time they got it,” Edwards said. “So, we thought if we could hold them to a tie in the first half, … we’d be able to dominate the second half.”

With that in mind, Lansing found the back of the net early in the second half. Edwards connected with Alex Rose, who sent a rolling ball into the corner of the net from outside the box. The goal gave Lansing a 3-2 lead they did not relinquish for the final 35 minutes.

Mugushu’s chances in the second half were limited not only by the wind, but also by the strong defense of Matt Weil, Ethan Burt, Jack Collins and Carlos Hernandez-Rivera. There was a lot of studying that went into the preparation for this matchup with Mugushu and the Cobras, and it paid off.

“We got film on their Section III Championship, and we saw that every move he did, he dropped the left shoulder and moved to the right,” Edwards said. “So, every time we got on him, we forced him backward so he couldn’t turn, and if did turn, we forced him to the left. He couldn’t do anything.”

Another key factor to the second half of play was the superb possession of the Bobcats, which is the trademark of Lansing soccer.

“Since we had the wind to our back [in the second half], our midfield really controlled the play,” Edwards said. “So me, Alex [Rose], Joe [Besemer], we just combined one-two around everybody, and they were just chasing like rats chasing cheese.”

With the 3-2 victory, the Bobcats are heading to Middletown once again. Waiting for them will be Section V champions Keshequa for a semifinal match on Saturday morning at 8:30. Edwards discussed what needs to be done for Lansing to take home their third consecutive title.

“We need hard work this week,” Edwards said. “We need to realize that we’ll have two games, back-to-back, if we win the semifinal. We just have to continue to play our style because no team plays like us, so hopefully, we can surprise them.”

As Edwards alluded to, if the Bobcats are victorious on Saturday morning, they will play the winner of Rhinebeck and Voorheesville on Sunday morning at 10:30 to determine the 2019 New York State Class C Champion.

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