Chris Adrian thought that this was going to be the year.
He really believed his McPherson High girls soccer team had all the ingredients to win the first girls state championship in school history to join the two won by the boys back in 2001 and 2003.
The Bullpups had a high-powered offense that featured four explosive scorers. The defense had pitched 10 shutouts. Two of their three losses were to teams that also made state.
But for the dream to become a reality, the Bullpups first had to get past Thomas More Prep of Hays in the Class 4-1A quarterfinals on Tuesday, though the game was on their home pitch.
The Monarchs, despite possessing the ball far less than MHS, made one big play and that was enough for a 1-0 victory.
Ashley Ostrander, coming off a hat trick against Wichita Collegiate, outran two MHS defenders and that left her 1-on-1 against Bullpup goalie Riley Hett, who really didn’t have a chance to stop the shot.
The Monarchs then packed it in much of the second half to advance to the Final Four on Friday in Wichita, where they’ll play Louisburg.
The other semi is a marquee matchup as No. 1-ranked Maize South takes on defending champion Bishop Miege, which had to survive four overtimes to outlast Spring Hill.
Adrian and his team were crestfallen after the game. Despite constantly being on the attack, MHS couldn’t punch a shot past terrific Hays goalie Deonna Wellbrock, who stoned the seven attempts she faced.
“They got their chance and they took advantage of it,” said Adrian, whose team was attempting to reach the Final Four for a third straight year. “It felt like we were always one pass away, one touch away. A ball bouncing around in the box and we couldn’t get that final touch on it and put it away. Their keeper made some really great saves in there.”
The Bullpups appeared to score late in the game when Aislinn Hughes headed in a shot off an Alayna Wallace corner kick, but MHS was called for a penalty that nullified it for pushing the goalie.
“We had watched a lot of film on this team and we had a plan,” Adrian said. “I thought we executed it pretty well in the second half. We kept getting around the outside and getting crosses in. We were winning corner kicks, but couldn’t get that final touch in the net.”
TMP’s defensive dragnet caused the Bullpups some hesitation at times.
“At times we had all the space in the world, but we couldn’t figure out what to do with that space,” Adrian said. “It was something we practiced, but they gave us a look that we hadn’t seen all season. It’s tough when you’re used to playing quick and then all of a sudden you’ve got all this time and you’re playing the ball to people who are guarded tighter than you are.”
The loss ended an eight-game MHS winning streak and it finished with a 15-4 record.
“Great year, but the credit goes to these seniors who have been on the team, players like Alayna Wallace who has been a captain for three years,” Adrian said. “Seniors who came into this program when it wasn’t great. The culture on the team wasn’t what it should be. We were struggling for numbers and they’ve really changed the culture of the team. It was never about them, which is so rare. They don’t care who gets the goals, they don’t care who gets the credit. It was always about the team and that’s what’s hard about today, I thought we had the better overall team. You saw us play as a team. We are going to miss that leadership for this team. They have been a huge part of this program.”
Other seniors were Anna Schwindt, Jordan Bruner, Ashley Gant and Heidi Myers.
MHS is well-stocked for next year as Hughes, Claire Hedlund and Jessie Kynaston combined for 47 goals and they all return, as do starters Hett, Lauren Hein, Laiken Hein, Jaycee Burghart, Hannah Hageman and Maisie Edmonson.