Jessie Kynaston doesn’t start for McPherson High’s girls soccer team, but she sure does finish.
Kynaston, the Bullpups’ energizing freshman super sub, continued to be the MVP of the postseason, as her first-half goal here Tuesday night proved to be the only dent in the scoreboard as MHS advanced to Friday’s Final Four at McPherson Stadium with a 1-0 victory over pesky Wichita Trinity Academy, which saw its bid for a repeat state championship denied.
MHS, now 14-3-1, will play DeSoto in one semifinal at 5 p.m. Friday, while private school powers Bishop Miege and Topeka Hayden will throw down in the other at 7 p.m.. Hayden was the state runner-up last year after winning back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013.
The third-place game Saturday is scheduled for noon, with the championship to be decided at 2:00.
"Honestly, we're kind of playing with house money now," MHS coach Chris Adrian said. "And I think they're going to come out relaxed (on Friday)."
For the Bullpups, it’s their first trip to the Final Four in 13 years. They made it four straight years from 1999 to 2002, but never finished higher than third.
Kynsaton, who scored both of the Bullpups’ goals in the regional championship overtime victory over Rose Hill last week, took a lead pass from Aislinn Hughes and then was able to make a one-on-one move to slide the ball past Trinity goalie Molly Mason. That came at the 27:46 mark.
"What was really tough was that those were like her first touches coming into the game," Adrian said. "That's hard to do. You come into the game and the first pass to you is a breakaway. And she put it in the net. She just loves to score goals. In practice, if it's a finishing drill, she's like 'I'll do it. I want to get in there. I want to be the one shooting it. She just has that knack that she wants to put the ball in the net.'"
MHS continued to apply pressure in the first half, finishing with six shots on goal to just one for the Knights.
The Bullpups spent much of the second half trying to massage the lead. Kynaston had a chance at a second goal with 22:25 remaining, but couldn’t convert.
As the time melted down, the Bullpups’ defense was like a dragnet. Led by Breckon Kaufman, Laiken Hein, Heidi Myers, Shelby Gudenkauf and Maisie Edmonson, the Bullpups kept the Knights from getting good looks by constantly winning 50-50 balls.
The Knights finally had their best chance to score in the final minute with the marvelous Ally Henderson firing a rocket at MHS goalie Sydney Ruder, but the sophomore was able to secure the 90 mph fastball, which in essence proved to the final nail. Henderson was a gifted offensive operative, but Adrian lauded the defense of Anna Schwindt on her.
"Anna played against her so well," Adrian said. "She's a great player, one of the best we'll see. She scored like four or five goals against Winfield the other day."
Ruder's last save had the Bullpup faithful on the edge of their seats as it left a vapor trail.
"Sydney has been so sure-handed all season," Adrian said. "She didn't even bobble it."
Heidi Myers' defensive play also earned bouquets.
"She played extremely well," Adrian said. "She was heading balls out, where some of the other girls were maybe a little hesitant to do that. She was not afraid to put her body between whatever to stop the ball. She was very aggressive up top."
Adrian likes the draw for Friday, as Miege and Hayden perhaps play tougher competition during the season than DeSoto.
"We've got nothing to lose," Adrian said. "We've exceeded every expectation and I think that's only going to help us play better."
Adrian is hoping for a crowd on par with Tuesday's as MHS fans turned out en masse to support the Bullpups.
"Best support I’ve seen at a girls soccer game since I've been here," he said. "Hopefully we get even more on Friday."