McPherson High’s girls soccer team is taking a short cut through the Class 4-1A South Central Regional.
Because it earned the No. 1 seed, it was allowed to bypass the traditional Tuesday opener and move right into Thursday’s championship game.
The Bullpups, 12-3-1 on the year with two of the losses to Class 6A schools, host Rose Hill at 7 p.m. Thursday at McPherson Stadium. A victory propels MHS into the state’s Elite Eight.
That would set up a quarterfinal game here on Tuesday and a victory would send the Bullpups into the Final Four, which will be held on their home field May 29-30.
Rose Hill advanced to Thursday’s matchup with the Bullpups by outlasting Buhler 2-1 on Tuesday. The ‘Pups and Rockets met earlier this year, with MHS taking a 2-0 triumph, one of nine shutouts on the year as sophomore goalie Sydney Ruder has permitted just 13 goals total.
“This team is so excited to be in the position they are in right now,” said MHS coach Chris Adrian, whose senior-less team has been of the state’s biggest surprises. “Getting Tuesday off with the bye was a big deal and I anticipate the girls will come out Thursday night with a lot of energy.”
Adrian says the familiarity with Rose Hill can’t be overlooked.
“We have played them before and we know we can win,” Adrian said. “That being said, we are by no means looking past Thursday’s game. We have had some great practices lately that show me these girls are not complacent and are working to get better. We will be ready to go. Both teams are very similar and are pretty solid at every position on the field. I believe our depth will be one of our biggest advantages. We have scored a lot of goals in the second half of games because we are able to wear teams down and remain fresh for the entire 80 minutes.”
The Bullpups struggled early in the year offensively, but have really been rolling the second half of the season. One reason is the emergence of sprinter-fast freshman Aislinn Hughes, who has piled up a team-high 14 goals. Junior Paige Schmidt has scored off several set plays from Alayna Wallace and is second on the team with 10 goals, including several headers. Rapidly improving freshman Jessie Kynaston is third with eight goals.
Wallace, who has a tremendous-and-accurate leg, is far and away the assist leader with 10. Hughes and Michelle Carrillo are next with four.
The MHS defense has had few breakdowns, led by cerebral junior Breckon Kaufman. Freshmen Laiken Hein and Maisie Edmonson have played beyond their years on the defensive side, while they’re aided by junior Shelby Gudenkauf and sophomore Heidi Myers as there’s good depth in the backline.
Offensive depth comes from sophomores Anna Schwindt and Jordan Bruner, and juniors Carrillo and Danielle Lacy. The return of freshmen Rylee Schrader hasn’t hurt as she was off to a good start before missing more than a month with an injury.
The Bullpups have never won a girls state soccer title. While they were expected to be a good team this year, they have accelerated their timetable to be a major force.