McPherson High girls soccer coach Chris Adrian, his players and the worried Bullpup fans were constantly taking a peek at the scoreboard here Thursday night.
With upset-minded Rose Hill leading the Bullpups 1-0 in the Class 4-1A South Central Regional championship game, the minutes began to melt away. The ticks were becoming louder and louder. The clock went from 30 to 25 to 20 to 15 and still no McPherson equalizer and nervousness in the stands began to ramp up.
Finally, with 11:32 left in the game, determined Bullpup freshman Jessie Kynsaton would not be denied, making a great individual effort to get a shot past Rose Hill goalie Meredith Bartley to tie the game.
The exhale from the stadium could not help but be noticed. But there was still a little matter of winning the game.
The teams couldn’t settle an outcome in regulation and the first overtime was looking like more of the same. But then the relentless Kynsaton took a pass from fellow freshman Rylee Schrader and scored on a picture-perfect play for a 2-1 victory.
The Bullpups will remain at home for the first round of state on Tuesday, with Trinity Academy coming to town. A victory in that game and MHS would play two more games on the weekend in the Class 4-1A Final Four right here at McPherson Stadium.
The Bullpups probably wouldn’t be in that position if not for Kynsaton, easily the best player on the field on this night.
“Tough as nails,” Adrian said of Kynaston, who is now third on the team with 10 goals even though she isn’t a regular starter. “It was going to take somebody sacrificing, saying ‘I want this ball more than the other team. Putting their head somewhere where it might get kicked. Going in where you might get hit, but are you willing to make that sacrifice. That was a great example. Keeper coming out and she goes through first.... she was fearless out there.’”
Schrader, another freshman sub, actually took three shots in the overtime as she provided a spark. She had missed more than a month of the season with a knee injury and while still not 100 percent, her contributions were immense.
“She looked very controlled out there,” Adrian said. “She completed a lot of passes, it seemed like she wanted the ball. So that’s why in overtime I gave her that opportunity.”
The Bullpups had dominated the Rockets 2-0 in an earlier meeting, a game not nearly as close as the score indicated. But Rose Hill came out and traded blow for blow.
“You’ve got to give Rose Hill a lot of credit. They were a completely different team than the first time we saw them,” Adrian said. “They were coached up a lot better for this game and they frustrated the heck out of us. They took us out of our game. For large portions of that we didn’t look like our normal selves. Part of that I think was nerves, but a big part was what they were doing to us.”
Hannah Knaak’s early goal in the second half had given the Rockets a 1-0 lead, but Rose Hill went into somewhat of a defensive mode as it tried to pack it in, which gave MHS the opportunity to get back in it. The Bullpups more than doubled the Rockets in shots.
“The second half we did look better even though we gave up a goal. The second half we were the much-better team,” Adrian said. “I think we had only one shot on goal in the first half, we’re too good on offense to put up only one shot on a goalie.”
Adrian said for any team that makes a deep playoff run, it sometimes has to overcome a scare along the way. He believes now that the Bullpups will come out and play their best game on Tuesday.