At the start of the season, the McPherson High girls’ chances of competing in the Class 4-1A State Soccer Final Four on their home pitch at the end of May was considered somewhat of a pipe dream.
The Bullpups were coming off a pedestrian 8-9-1 season and took to the field for the first game of 2015 with a lineup that didn’t include a single senior.
Ever-optimistic Bullpup coach Chris Adrian hinted (rather loudly to we media types) during the preseason that his team had a few tricks up its sleeve. He knew his talented freshmen of 2014 were a year older and stronger, while he had another bumper crop of freshmen to evaluate. He privately said he expected at least four or five ninth-graders to either start or be viable contributors.
The Bullpups got off to a 6-1 start before back-to-back stumbles against 6A schools Derby (which is in the Elite Eight) and Hutchinson. They then ran off six wins in a row before tying the season finale against Valley Center, one of the best teams in 5A (and still alive tonight).
The final 12-3-1 record gave the Bullpups the regional’s top seed and a first-round bye. All MHS had to do was win one game to advance to state.
It accomplished that, though it showed its youth (and some butterflies) by rallying past Rose Hill to eventually win in overtime 2-1, a Rocket team it had handled 2-0 during the regular season.
Now the Bullpups host defending state champion Wichita Trinity Academy tonight at McPherson Stadium, with the action starting at 7:00. On paper, it would appear the Bullpups are a huge favorite since the Knights endured an eight-game losing streak on its way to a 6-11 record.
But Trinity basically plays nothing but 6A and 5A teams. It has the necessary pedigree. It also is armed with the knowledge it has owned the Bullpups, who desperately seek some retribution. The Knights embarrassed Winfield 8-0 in their regional final, which doubled the margin the Bullpups defeated the Vikings by. So it’s not a stretch to say the Bullpups, despite the much-gaudier record, are an underdog going into tonight.
That’s fine with them. They have thrived on teams looking past them all season.
Sadly, I’m afraid McPherson fans won’t turn out in droves tonight. It will be the customary, loyal following — the usual couple of hundred. If this were a football game tonight, the stands would be filled and the atmosphere electric. But I’m guessing the stadium will be 30 to 35 percent filled, which is too bad considering what this team has and is trying to accomplish.
Hopefully McPherson fans will prove me wrong. It should be a nice night and the product on the field is worthy of your support. A victory and the Bullpups would achieve what was once thought to be a long shot dream at the start of the year.