McPherson High’s girls soccer team literally gave its blood, sweat and tears during Tuesday’s emotional, leave-it-all-on-the-field 4-2 Class 4-1A State semifinal victory over defending champion Topeka Hayden at Grant Complex.
The blood came in the form of Michelle Carrillo, who had to leave the game for a spell after suffering a bloody nose. The time spent on the sideline seemed to re-energize her, as she came back over the final 20 minutes and came up with several key plays down the stretch.
The sweat was a collective team effort on the hot-and-humid day, which called for water breaks at the midway point of each half. The Bullpups’ considerable depth was a big check mark in their box as fresh MHS bodies kept taking the field.
The tears also was a team effort, as they were tears of joy after clinching a second straight berth in the Final Four.
Hayden was hoping to return home to play in the Final Four this weekend at Hummer Sports Complex. But the program that has been a staple in the championship game was denied, as it couldn’t overcome a three-goal explosion by dynamic Jessie Kynaston, who scored two early goals to kick-start the team and then put the game out of reach with a goal with 5 minutes remaining.
It also proved to the Bullpups they could indeed defeat one of the state’s elite teams. MHS’ lofty record included a lot of walkovers against overmatched competition. Its two losses were to Class 6A power Derby and 5A titan Newton, while the tie came against Valley Center, which had very few losses this season.
Before the season, anything less than a return trip to the Final Four was thought to be a disappointment. MHS returned 10 starters from last year’s team that battled Hayden within 1-0 and it also had some talented freshmen that were too good to be ignored. One of them, Hannah Hageman, scored a goal during the Bullpups’ blitz to start the game.
I stood on the sideline next to the MHS bench when Hayden scored a quick goal to start the second half and then a 30-yard, wind-aided bomb near the halfway point to cut the lead to 3-2. You could sense anxiousness and some self-doubt creeping into the Bullpups’ minds.
Fortunately, it was determined before the game to have a water break around the 20-minute mark. That proved incredibly valuable for the Bullpups, as they had gotten away from what led them to the lead. MHS coach Chris Adrian was able to calm his team down and refocus it. The Bullpups owned the final 20 minutes and Kynaston’s final goal to complete her hat trick gave the team a sense of calm.
Now the pressure is off. The Bullpups are back where they believe they belong. They know Miege will be another huge challenge, not just with their talent but their reputation. If the Bullpups can win the mental battle, I think they’ll win the physical battle, too.