Louisville Lightning coach Ted Nichols said in early January that his team was on the verge of something big.
It was a bold statement for the coach of a team that was 1-5 in league play heading into the Jan. 15 game against the Detroit Waza. The Lightning had already lost once to the Waza at home, but Nichols had a feeling the tide was about to turn.
Maybe if this coaching gig doesn’t work out, Nichols could have a future in thoroughbred handicapping. Since that Jan. 15 game, the Lightning are 4-1 in league play, and the team has won five of its last six games. After being dangerously close to last place in the Professional Arena Soccer League’s Eastern Division, the team is now on the verge of moving into second place and eyeing a playoff berth.
The remarkable turnaround continued over the weekend, with the Lightning pulling out a thriller over Detroit at Mockingbird Valley Sports Complex Friday night. After falling behind 2-0 to open the game, the Lightning stormed back to tie things up twice, then took the lead and fought off a feisty Detroit team. After going up 8-5 with 2:32 left in the final period, Louisville withstood two late goals from the Waza to grind out the 8-7 victory. Chad Hagerty led the way with three goals, while John Michael Hayden and Darren Yeagle both scored twice.
One of the most impressive aspects of the Lightning turnaround has been the leadership from different players. Nichols has also found a way to win with different lineups, as evidenced when the team went to Canton, Ohio Saturday night to take on the Ohio Vortex. Louisville won 14-7 on the back end of the weekend schedule, and eight different Lightning players hit the back of the net. The team was also without Kolby Lacrone, Simon Bird, and several other regulars against the Vortex.
The Lightning are not only winning games, but they continue to win fans as well. Friday’s home game was the third consecutive game with a season-high attendance. In fact, the club set a franchise record with nearly 1,600 fans packed into Mockingbird. Team officials had to bring in additional seating.
Louisville now takes a two-game road trip back to Ohio and Detroit before returning home for two more contests later this month. The four games ahead are all arguably winnable games, and the Lightning could take a seven-game winning streak into the final game of the season against the Cincinnati Kings.