So here we go again — McPherson High and Bishop Miege meeting in a state event.
This classic matchup between these gold-standard schools takes place on Friday when the Bullpups and Stags throw down at Bethel College in the Class 4-1A State Soccer Tournament semifinals at 5:00. The winner moves on to the state title game at 2 p.m. Saturday, with the loser to play for third at noon.
McPherson and Miege seem to be joined at the hip. Both schools advanced to the finals of the Class 4A Division I State Basketball Tournament in March, with the Bullpup girls making an unprecedented rally to tie the Stags in regulation — down 9 with just over 2 minutes to go — and then won in overtime. The Bullpup boys appeared to be on their way to a sweep with a healthy halftime lead over the Stags, but the game turned in the third quarter and Miege wound up winning it down the stretch.
Miege's boys soccer team ended the Bullpups' state title hopes this past fall by winning a 3-1 decision in the semifinals.
There’s a chance this could be the last meeting for a while. McPherson is expected to be a 5A school next year and Miege will most likely remain in 4A.
So the Bullpups’ girls soccer team wants to make this matchup historic. Miege is the two-time defending champion and has outscored its opponents 62-23 in compiling a 12-6-1 record.
But its competition has been brutal, so its record is somewhat deceiving. The Stags were just 2-5-1 in the Eastern Kansas League, including a 5-0 loss to arch-rival St. Thomas Aquinas. Since that game, however, it has pitched four straight shutouts, including a 5-0 win at Piper, which was the No. 1 seed in the Northeast Regional.
With apologizes to Maize South, this will be the best team the Bullpups have faced all year. It has a Division I signee in Sophia Strahm (St. Louis University) and another college commit in Megan Homoly, who will be attending D-II Benedictine. If this team is like those from the past, it will be fast, aggressive and skillful.
Those are also the attributes of the Bullpups. MHS has gone 17-1-1, with the tougher part of the schedule coming the first half of the season. MHS had a stretch of five games later on where it scored at least 10 goals on four occasion. In the postseason, MHS has outscored its three opponents 26-0.
The Bullpups certainly have the players to get it done. They have tremendous speed, work the ball with precision and possess a lot of depth. Anna Nason came off the bench to score a hat trick on Tuesday and reserves also accounted for half the assists. The Bullpups have an NCAA Division II signee of their own in Aislinn Hughes, whose historic 29-goal, 17-assist season is among the most amazing stat lines in Kansas. Throw in Claire Hedlund (19 goals, 12 assists), Jessie Kynaston (17 goals, 12 assists), Kenzee Godwin (16 goals, 9 assists) and Hannah Hageman (12 goals, 4 assists) and the Bullpups have firepower to burn.
This game, though, could come down to the mental side as much as the physical aspect. When a team plays Miege in any sport, there’s a mind-set to overcome. There’s a mystique about Miege, it plays with an air of invincibility. Stag teams know when they take on opponent, they’re most likely the better team going into a competition and the opposition knows that.
But as the longtime saying goes, “there’s no fear in McPherson.” The Bullpups certainly will go into the game brimming with confidence. They can take a page from the girls basketball team, which proved no matter the odds that victory is still possible.
It should be a fun game. If the Bullpups can possess the ball as they have all year, they have a great chance to win and play for the state title.