With a two-goal fourth quarter lead gone and momentum swinging sharply in Pembroke Hill’s favor, SM East lacrosse coach Chris Kliewer turned to the player whose offensive prowess had propelled the Lancers into the first-ever Lacrosse Association of Kansas City championship game.
With his finger pointed and fire in his eyes, Kliewer looked at junior Connor McGannon.
“Are you going to step up today?” Kliewer said. “Move your feet!”
Hampered by tendonitis in his knee, McGannon, who scored five goals against St. Thomas Aquinas in the semi-finals, was scoreless in regulation. He’d looked stiff, unable to cut and find open looks at the goal.
Kliewer knew he was hurting. But he also felt the team’s hopes of taking home the trophy rested on McGannon’s ability to find a little something extra.
“I told the team that we knew this game was going to come down to one goal,” Kliewer said. “We had to have [McGannon] dig a little bit deep. We needed him.”
Apparently the talk worked.
Just over a minute into the overtime period, SM East’s Spencer Green knocked the ball loose near Pembroke Hill’s goal, and when McGannon found it in his net, he launched a quick shot. It found the back of the Pembroke Hill goal, and the Lancers had prevailed 5-4.
“It was probably my worst game of the year,” McGannon said after the victory. “But after playing bad on my end, it was great to pull through and win it as a team. I’ll take that any day. It’s unbelievable.”
The Lancers maintained solid possession of the ball through much of the first half, taking a 4-2 lead into the break, and then keeping it through the third quarter. But a late run by the Raiders eliminated the lead with seven minutes left in regulation. Kliewer credits his team with finding the resilience not to give in when things started to turn Pembroke’s way.
“This team has taken it on the chin all year long,” he said. “We’re battle tested. We traveled the country playing good competition training for moments like this.”
An announced crowd of 1,200 showed up at Livestrong Sporting Park for the game, an impressive turnout considering the LAKC is just in its first year.
Kliewer said the showing was evidence that the sport was gaining traction in the area.
“Good things are happening in Kansas City in the lacrosse world. There are over 1,000 kids in the youth program in the city. We’re sitting on top of an oil field right now, and we’ve got to be ready for that explosion.”