For just a moment during Thursday’s Class 4-1A girls soccer Regional against Buhler, the McPherson High crowd was deathly silent.
McPherson High senior Colleen O’Connor, just a year out from breaking her leg during a game, went down to the turf after getting her legs tied up with a Buhler player and stayed down as time expired in the first half.
“Every time you see (O’Connor) go down, you flash back to last year,” MHS coach Chris Adrian said.
After being checked over by the McPherson High trainer, it was determined the back of her heel had been stepped, on and she made her way off the field under her own power. O’Connor came back in the second half to lead the Bullpups in a 3-0 dismantling of Buhler and a trip to the 4-1A State Tournament Quarterfinals next week.
“I knew (O’Connor) was going be able to get back in,” Adrian said. “She isn’t going to sit for something like that.”
McPherson, who had defeated Buhler 1-0 a week prior, were physical with the Crusaders from the opening kick, not allowing Buhler a good look at the goal for the entire first half.
The Pups got on the scoreboard first in the half’s 22nd minute, as Hailey Ruder launched a line-drive kick up the middle off an assist from O’Connor to put MHS up 1-0.
After the half, Buhler came out more aggressive, frantically trying to make something happen and keep their post-season hopes alive. McPherson’s defense and goalie Shaelah White was more than up to the task of turning away the Crusaders, however.
“It’s like in any sport,” Adrian said. “You knew they were going to have that moment where they came and came and came. We weathered that and you could tell they were a little gassed.”
McPherson (10-7-1) took advantage of that exhaustion, as O’Connor broke loose off a pass from Ruder to knock in McPherson’s second goal of the evening at the 21:29 mark of the half.
She then stole the ensuing kickoff from Buhler and scored the third goal barely 10 seconds later, putting any injury fears to rest.
“I knew that second goal would be huge for us,” Adrian said. “It gave us a little bit of breathing room because, when it’s one goal, you never know what could happen. (O’Connor) played a great game for us today. It was awesome.”
MHS took 11 total shots on goal to Buhler’s three.
Page 2 of 2 - The Pups will move onto the Class 4-1A State Quarterfinals Tuesday, where they will face Winfield, who defeated Ottawa 5-0 in their South Central Regional final. Game time and location information was unavailable at press time.
The state tournament semifinals will be held next Friday in Topeka.