Windsor, CT — Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler sang it succinctly: “You got to lose to know how to win,” but Lawrence Academy’s Head of House Dan Scheibe summed up LA’s varsity boy’s soccer championship win just as well on Sunday afternoon, after the Spartans beat the South Kent Cardinals 4-2 on penalty kicks — “What more could you want?” Scheibe asked.
A year ago, Lawrence lost the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council title to South Kent on the same field, also on penalty kicks.
“This is the ultimate picture,” Head Coach Colin Igoe mused as he looked at a photo of his of the happy team celebrating. “But it’s not looking at it until you’re here — and even today, in the locker room, we said, ‘We’re here and we’re close to the goal, but it’s step-by-step. It’s defending properly, it’s moving the ball and, in the end, they won the championship.”
The difficulty of the victory and the season-long road back to Windsor, Connecticut, might eventually be lost in the pleasure of the win, but today’s ascension into New England championship heaven wasn’t ever a certainty.
LA scored late in the first half. Abdulkadir Haji took co-captain Amadu Kunateh’s feed and flicked it over the outstretched arms of the Cardinal keeper to give the Spartans a short-lived lead. South Kent countered just a few minutes into the second half and the score remained knotted at 1-1 through the remainder of regulation and two ten-minute overtimes.
But that was the opportunity for Lawrence Academy not only to take home a championship trophy, but to truly bring themselves all the way back.
“The stars aligned for us,” Kunateh said. “Right after last year’s game, we turned the page, and I think that’s why we were able to flip [the result] of this game today. And we’ve just been working, since preseason, and that’s why we got the win today.”
Hard work was certainly part of it. However, in the end it took successful penalty kicks from Amadu, David Murphy, Mbongeni Tshuma, and Haji, as well as a spectacular PK stop from goalkeeper Aiden Perry to truly bring full redemption to the denizens of Powderhouse Road.
“It was way too close for me,” admitted Tshuma, who said he forced himself to calm down before taking his turn on the PK stripe. “We’ve been practicing since the playoffs started, we already knew [the team’s shooting] list, and we had confidence in our goalie. But we were in this situation last year … that has to be fate.”
Co-captain Paul Schnebly didn’t discount his club’s overwhelming desire to redeem themselves after last year’s heartbreaking loss on the same pitch.
“It was crazy redemption,” Schnebly said. He explained that although the club turned the page on their disappointment, they didn’t forget about it, either. “Every day since last year, we’ve thought about that loss … and it’s crazy that we were able to get the opportunity to play the same exact team. It doesn’t happen very often in life,” he said.
“They’re going to treasure it for their whole life,” Igoe said. “Not just the championship, but the relationships, and the humility, and the toughness. Thirty years from now, I hope they’re back with their kids, watching LA soccer and saying we won the first New England championship, because these guys did it. The senior class, they turned the program around.”
But Scheibe, who ran on to the field with the rest of the LA faithful to congratulate their team, hopes that the greater lesson is the one that sticks with these players after they leave LA.
“Rewind to last year: same team, same effort, and the same result — 180-degrees different. And the feeling of spirit and energy and just this strength that carries you year-to-year — that’s what it is,” Scheibe said. “It was so much calmer this year, in a way; such confidence and the willingness to work hard. We got every single second out of this season. We couldn’t have gotten a single second more out of the season.”