There are no timeouts in soccer, but given today’s heat and humidity it was decided ahead of time to take a water break halfway through each half of the Class 4-1A State quarterfinal game between McPherson High and defending champion Topeka Hayden at Grant Complex.
It couldn’t have come at a better time for the Bullpups in the second half.
Up 3-2 but reeling under the relentless Hayden attack that had been moribund in the first half, the Bullpups turbocharged their batteries for the final 20 minutes with Jessie Kynaston nailing a goal with 5 minutes left that allowed her team to exhale and eventually salt away a 4-2 victory.
The Bullpups will play in the Final Four on Friday in Topeka, with the opponent to be determined by the results of the other games today.
Kynaston was in beast mode as she fired in three goals, but none more important than her left-foot finale off a pass by Aislinn Hughes that broke the Wildcats’ spirit.
“She struggled to finish all year,” MHS coach Chris Adrian said. “Today she did amazing in front of the net. She had opportunities and put them in.”
It was Kynaston who set the tone right out of the gate as she scored just 69 seconds into the game off a pass from Alayna Wallace. That set off an MHS barrage, as Kynaston weaved a little magic 6 minutes later to make it 2-0 and then Hannah Hageman tallied off a Hughes assist at the 28:31 mark for a 3-0 lead that was carried into half.
“Couldn’t have drew it up any better to start the game,” Adrian said. “Really the whole first half I thought we played really well. That first 20 minutes in the second half, though, we just completely stopped doing what was working for us and that has been a bit of an issue for us this year. When we get a little bit under pressure we start to play too direct and just, ‘hey, Aislinn go score’ and kick it to her 1-on-4. That’s not going to work.”
The Bullpups had some other good chances to score in the first half, as it easily could have been 5-0 or 6-0 as the Wildcats were on the defensive.
In the second half it was Hayden that took advantage of a helping wind. Joelle Shurtz scored just 62 seconds in and a looping 30-yard bomb by Dianne Rubio at 23:46 started to send chills down the spines of the Bullpups.
Then came the water break.
“The water break was helpful,” Adrian said. “I think it was helpful for them in the first half and then helpful for us in the second half, just to get that refocus and get a spark in them because we just looked flat.”
Jordan Bruner came off the bench to provide the Bullpups an energy boost and the break allowed Michelle Carrillo to stop a bloody nose. When she came back, she too had more energy and the Bullpups’ depth proved to be immense.
“Jordan Bruner, that last 20 minutes, was huge for us. She was playing defense and offense and giving us that energy on the right side,” Adrian said. “They couldn’t get the ball from us.”
Wallace did yeoman work in the midfield, never coming off the pitch over the final 40 minutes. Time and again she won 50-50 balls.
“Even with 10 seconds left in the game, she’s the one dribbling the ball upfield to end the game,” Adrian said.
Hughes’ speed was too much for Hayden to handle, as she time and again made promising runs to set up potential scoring opportunities.
The Bullpups, who lost to Hayden 1-0 in last year’s championship game, take a 15-2-1 record to Topeka.