Next year has arrived one year early.
When handicapping the McPherson High girls soccer team before the season, the consensus was the Bullpups would be much improved, with one eye cast toward 2016 when it was all supposed to come together.
The Bullpups were all underclassmen and 2015 was expected to be a baptism by fire as a bumper crop of freshmen was joining the sophomores and juniors who took some lumps last year.
But the Bullpups accelerated their timetable. So much so they’ll be playing on their home pitch Saturday afternoon for the Class 4-1A state championship. It’s the first time in school history the team has reached the finals.
The Bullpups advanced Friday with a 2-0 victory over De Soto. They’ll play the winner of an expected titanic showdown between Big City schools Topeka Hayden and Bishop Miege.
The finals start at 2 p.m., with the third-place game at noon.
“That was fun. Man, it’s crazy. It’s just crazy to think where we were three months ago or even a year ago to be at this point,” said MHS coach Chris Adrian, whose team is now 15-3-1 after going just 8-9-1 last year. “I thought we could do it, but to actually do it is kind of unbelievable... for the first time this postseason, really they didn’t look like they had the pressure on them... the pressure was to get to this point (the Final Four), everything else is a bonus really. What a huge win for the program. ”
Once again it was the Bullpups’ fabulous freshmen who provided the offensive punch. Miss May, Jessie Kynaston, scored the Bullpups’ first-half goal, while another frosh, top scorer Aislinn Hughes, headed in the second after intermission. Both came off passes from sophomore cornerkick queen Alayna Wallace.
“She doesn’t get noticed for that enough,” Adrian said of Wallace. “She is probably the best set-play kicker in 4A. She’s got so many assists, I think she’s up now to 13 assists and I would not be surprised if 10 of them were on free kicks and corner kicks. She puts the ball right on the money.”
Kynaston and Hughes possess the most speed for the Bullpups and it’s their wheels that have led to their scoring prowess.
“That header by Aislinn in the second half, that was a beautiful goal,” Adrian said.
And Kynaston now has four of the Bullpups’ five postseason goals.
“She’s a postseason machine,” Adrian said. “These girls are so young they don’t even know they’re supposed to be feeling pressure.”
De Soto was never able to mount any offense against the Bullpup defensive wall. In fact, this was a stress-free win for the Bullpups once they seized the lead. Sydney Ruder was a rock between the pipes with six saves, three in each half.
Adrian admits the quality of opponent will increase on Saturday as Miege and Hayden play big-time schedules and have the pedigree. Both will have much more speed and dribbling skills.
“We’ll come in as underdogs tomorrow,” Adrian said. “These two teams playing today are very good teams, very solid teams. They’ve been ranked 1 and 2 all season long and there’s a reason for that, but we love that role. Playing at home... whoever is writing the script it’s awesome. To get the chance to play at home, most teams never get that opportunity, let alone to make it here, so it’s fun and we’re having a blast.”