This is going to be the McPherson High girls soccer team’s best chance to win that elusive first state championship.
The Bullpups came close in 2015 when this year's seniors were freshmen as they took second at state, losing 1-0 to Topeka Hayden in the finals.
But this 2018 team has every ingredient to win the championship.
After Thursday’s 9-1 victory over Salina Central in the regular-season finale, the Bullpups will take the best record into Class 4-1A postseason play. They should have a walkover in the first round against winless El Dorado, a team they defeated 14-0 in just one half of play earlier this season, but will have to work in their second game as they will host either Andover Central or Buhler on Thursday.
The Bullpups are 14-1-1, the only loss coming to now-Class 5A power Maize South in the finals of the McPherson Invitational. The Mavericks were third in Class 4-1A last year, but have jumped up a class this season.
The tie was against Circle, a game MHS had a 17-3 advantage in shots.
The Bullpups are also by far the highest-scoring team in 4-1A. While the spotlight has fallen on a dizzying offensive machine, they also have allowed the least number of goals in the class as they have won 10 games by shutout.
As I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions, the opposition can’t score if it doesn’t possess the ball. The Bullpups have a number of quick-footed players that dazzle with creative skills, one of the biggest traits being they have many players who can get off a shot with either foot.
Last year ended with an unpredicted thud in the quarterfinals, losing 1-0 to unheralded Thomas More Prep. I’m sure those who played key roles in that game haven’t forgotten the disappointment of that outcome and have used it as motivational fuel for this season. The Bullpups haven’t had nary a challenge since April 19 when they edged Newton, 1-0.
The lack of competition, though, is a concern. It’s been a long time since the Bullpups have played a team that can match their speed and skillset. Hopefully they haven’t lost their edge, though anybody who’s watched this team over the last month knows the passing has become more precise and everybody knows their role.
Aislinn Hughes has led the turbocharged offense with 27 goals and is tied with Lauren Schwindt for the single-season record, not to mention she has 14 assists. Claire Hedlund, who had one week where she scored 9 goals, has 18. Normally Jessie Kynaston would be leading the team in scoring with her 15 goals, but that puts her just third. Kenzee Godwin (11) and Hannah Hageman (10) are also in double figures, as it must drive opposing coaches crazy trying to devise a defensive game plan. You just can’t fixate on Hughes or Hedlund or Kynaston because so many players can score.
Then you can't discount players like Jaycee Burghart, Kelsey Wilson and Daphne Carrillo as the Bullpups are flush with depth throughout the lineup.
The defense is led by sisters Laiken and Lauren Hein, along with Maisie Edmonson, Michaela Bowers, Mary Anne Wurm and Adison Wash. Riley Hett is the anchor in goal and is capably backed by Laykn Schieferecke.
A soccer state champion normally comes from the Wichita, Kansas City or Topeka area, where girls can play year-around at indoor facilities. But the Bullpups are trying dispel that myth and they certainly have the firepower to do it.