We may have witnessed an unofficial passing of the torch on Saturday without realizing it.
Topeka Hayden’s girls soccer team outlasted McPherson High 1-0 before a nearly full house at vociferous McPherson Stadium.
For the seven Hayden seniors who started and the 14 that swelled its 22-player roster, it was the final chapter of their book of domination. They were involved in four straight state championship games, winning three of them. The only interruption came last year when Wichita Trinity Academy captured the championship.
It’s not to say that Hayden won’t be playing for another championship next year as it will return four starters and four reserves. But its seniors were such compelling forces that it surely will take the Wildcats at least half of next season to adjust to playing without them.
And who knows, Hayden might have had a junior varsity team that was uber-talented but was blocked by easily the deepest senior class in Kansas.
On the other hand, McPherson High has to be brimming with confidence after coming up one goal short of its first-ever state championship. The Bullpups were out-seniored 14-0 by the Wildcats, with three juniors starting in the championship game, four sophomores and four freshmen.
The team’s top two scorers, Aislinn Hughes and Jessie Kynaston, were freshmen. Two of the top defenders, Laiken Hein and Maisie Edmonson, were freshmen. Assist leader Alayana Wallace and pipes protector Sydney Ruder were sophomores. Ditto for defender Heidi Myers and midfielder Anna Schwindt.
The so-called “veterans” were defensive stalwart Breckon Kaufman, forward Paige Schmidt and midfielder Michelle Carrillo.
Coach Chris Adrian had his deepest team ever as he could use four or five subs.
When the championship game ended, Adrian wore a half-smile. He was of course disappointed that his team lost, but glowed from the fact he knows the Bullpups have the makings of a potential championship run. He told the team one key was that the program went from having a paltry seven or eight girls playing summer soccer to more than 20 last year. Now that Bullpups have that taste of a near-championship, their hunger to come back and play in the championship game should be voracious.
The Bullpups struggled somewhat offensively the first half of the season as it took a while for all the new parts to mesh. But once freshmen Hughes and Kynsaston figured it out, they were offensive stalwarts. The defense was terrific, led by the savvy Kaufman, who oozes leadership qualities. The Bullpups should be airtight next year when the players are a year older, stronger and faster. MHS is going to hang up a lot of zeroes on the defensive side.
Adrian reminded his team that girls soccer is one program at MHS that has yet to raise a banner in the storied Roundhouse. Don’t be surprised if it doesn’t take care of that business next year, or the year after at the latest.