It was the game that McPherson High girls soccer coach Chris Adrian did not want to see end.
It was the ultimate feel-good moment Saturday afternoon when his Bullpups thoroughly dominated Topeka Hayden for a 5-0 victory to take the third-place plaque in the Class 4-1A State Tournament.
While it didn’t erase the disappointment of Friday’s 2-1 semifinal loss to eventual champion Bishop Miege, the performance was more indicative of the season, which resulted in a best-ever 18-2-1 record.
The only other loss came to Class 5A power Maize South, while the tie was a rather inexplicable 1-1 headscratcher with Circle — a game the Bullpups totally dominated in time of possession and shots, but hit the bar nearly a half-dozen times.
The Bullpups finished the year with a jaw-dropping 136-9 scoring advantage. Emporia State-bound and future Wall of Famer Aislinn Hughes led the way with 32 goals and also had a team-high 18 assists. Claire Hedlund, who has two more years, followed up her 17-goal freshman season with 21. Don’t be surprised if her total keeps rising.
Jessie Kynaston (18), Kenzee Godwin (16) and Hannah Hageman (12) were all double-digit scorers.
The defense was tremendous with 14 shutouts and only twice did it allow two goals in a game.
What Adrian said he’ll miss most about the team is its chemistry. Moments after the team suffered the semifinal loss to Miege, it talked about wanting to play one last great game and come home with the third-place plaque.
Hughes took care of the suspense against Hayden early with two goals and went on to finish with a hat trick, while Hedlund scored two goals. This was Bullpup soccer at its finest, as they possessed the ball probably 75 percent of the time and never allowed Hayden to really get off one good shot. All five goals MHS scored were well-designed.
Hughes and Kynaston will be missed terribly, while Laiken Hein and Maisie Edmonson were defensive anchors. Other seniors were Kelsey Wilson, Adison Wash and Reese Schroeder.
As sad as Adrian will be losing that group, his outlook is brightened by what is returning.
Hedlund, Godwin and Hageman assure the Bullpups of having plenty of offensive firepower. Jaycee Burghart and Anna Nason will probably see their goal production increase next year. Nason was a revelation in the state quarterfinals when she came off the bench for a hat trick after scoring only three goals during the regular season.
Riley Hett returns in goal for her fourth year, while she’ll have Lauren Hein and Michaela Bowers in front of her as defensive mainstays. Mary Anne Wurm, Natalie Hedlund and Daphne Carrillo could have started for a lot of teams and could step into the lineup next year. Backup goalie Lakyn Schieferecke could move into the field, as Meghan Smith can back Hett.
Stacey Pham, Belle Alexander and Hannah Dossett were able to get into important playoff games because of the Bullpup domination and that experience should serve them well next year.
The Bullpups should again be tremendous during the regular season next year, but the playoff road may be a little tougher. MHS is moving up to 5A next year and this part of the state is loaded with good teams, including Bishop Carroll and Kapaun.
But with the experience gained from this season, the Bullpups should be ready for any or all challengers.