The road to state was cut short for the McPherson High School girls soccer team.
The Bullpups fell to Valley Center High School 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the Class 5A State Tournament. The Hornets will move on to the semifinals in Emporia on Friday.
The Hornets showed how they only gave up eight goals all year. It was as if they were one step ahead of the Bullpups, but both teams were still evenly matched. Neither’s defense gave up an inch of a goal. It was a scoreless first half with each recording one shot on goal. It was a struggle for the McPherson's one-two punch Kenzee Godwin and Claire Hedlund as they couldn't get a clear open-look shot like they usually do all season.
"Their midfield is what also what made their defense so strong," Bullpup’s Head Coach Chris Adrian said. "Part of the reason we couldn't get those runs through because we couldn't get the service that we typically do."
The weather didn't help either. Earlier, the game was on lightning delay, and kickoff started at 7 p.m. instead of 6. The rain was gone, but the winds got stronger, making it difficult for McPherson to get in scoring position and create combo attacks.
"In the first half, we struggled with our composure playing with the wind when it started to gust. It made it a bit tougher to pass the ball,” Adrian said.
In the second half, the Bullpups were more aggressive than they were in the first. Valley Center remained poised and in control. After a full hour of defensive soccer, the Bullpups made a false move, and it cost them one goal by the Hornet's freshman Ruby Aguilar.
Time was running out for the Bullpups as Valley Center led 1-0 with six minutes left in the second half. It's unusual for the Bullpups to be on the ropes and it was hard for the offense to get something going in final drive. There were opportunities for the Bullpups to make a scoring attempt, but it was not enough.
"I honestly thought we played well in the second half than the first half. We took them out of their rhythm," Adrian said. "We didn't see their midfield dominating us like they were at times in the first half. We started to get into transitions. We just couldn't make the right passes, and the ball didn't pass our way. That one goal kick bounced, we slipped, and that's it. That was a tough one to take. It's because we knew we were right there, and honestly, I thought we had better opportunities in that game."
The Bullpups finished the 2019 season with a 17-2 record, the most wins in school history. Despite their state-run coming to an end, Adrian reflected on the Bullpup's season and his senior class. He will lose eight after this year.
"Their legacy is not going to be defined by this game. What I really love about this group is you got these seniors, and none of them are going to play soccer next year," Adrian said. "They all are multi-sport athletes that just compete as hard as possible. I think that tells a lot about this group, and the amount that we have graduating. They all didn't start as freshmen either. Very few of them have to work through their junior and senior year where they can have this moment to get into games like this to contribute. That's what it takes to have a strong program. This class is leaving better than they found it. They are a great group of seniors that I'm going to look back on to remember the success they had and the leadership that they brought, because some serious leaders just made this team a joy to be a part of."
Bishop Carroll High School also advanced to the semifinals after beating Maize 3-1 and will face St. Thomas Aquinas High School on Friday at 5 p.m. Valley Center will take on St. James Academy immediately after the first game.
Contact Peter Holland Jr. by email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Petes_Picks_orour sports page @MacCountySports