McPherson soccer ends Circle's unbeaten season, advances to 4A-1A semifinals

Charles Chaney
McPherson's celebrates as a team as they advance to the Class 4A-1A state semifinals

TOWANDA, Kansas — To say McPherson had been waiting for this one was an understatement.

Fourth-seeded McPherson avenged an earlier season loss by beating top-seeded and previously unbeaten, the Circle Thunderbirds, 3-1 in the Class 4A-1A quarterfinals on Tuesday night. 

“Oh yeah, we were excited,” McPherson senior Kenzee Godwin said. “We were all very confident going in which helped us get that first goal and keep the momentum going.”

It didn’t take long for McPherson to grab ahold of the match, as they were gifted an old goal in the 10th minute of the match but credit was given to Belle Alexander to put the Bullpups up early.

That would be all they would need as McPherson dictated momentum for a majority of the match and limited mistakes. 

“Circle’s threat is their speed behind so we said we’re going to give them the ball to their food and not the through ball behind,” McPherson Head Coach Chris Adrian said. “Our girls did a really good job of doing what we have been working on in practice. Give them all the credit.”

As Circle tried to get the ball through the middle of the field to Carsyn Soto, the Bullpup back line just never really let the Lady Thunderbirds get quality possession in the attacking third. Any time Soto, who leads Circle with 31 goals, would touch the ball, it would be two defenders there. Their ability to pin a ball through the middle and clear it out of the attacking third is also a piece to the win.

“They were playing smart and not do too much,” Adrian said. 

Circle appeared a step slow in the first half, going into the break with a 1-0 McPherson lead, they came out trying to pepper the net from distance. They pushed up defenders into attacking positions and came away with some good opportunities, such as Ava Wiggins placing the ball just across the face of the goal but it would roll to a goal kick. 

The risk of pushing up is counter attacks can make you pay and that’s what happened when Lauren Labertew caught a nice pass and slipped it by Circle’s Hannah Stepp for the back breaking 2-0 lead in the 58th minute.

“We gambled and we went for it and were wanting to find a quick equalizer,” Circle Head Coach Andrew Stauffer said. “The gamble didn’t pay off for us this time.”

Godwin would put one home in the 72nd minute to put the game out of reach.

“I went to the semifinals as a freshman,” Godwin said. “This means a lot more because of the team that I feel like is a lot closer and it feels really good.”

McPherson returned only a limited number of players for two seasons ago after COVID-19 wiped out last season. They loaded their schedule with teams like Bishop Miege and other larger school teams to prepare for this.

“That’s why we do that,” Adrian said. “To prepare us for moments like this.”

Their reward for all of their hardwork? A rematch with Mulvane on Friday, May 28 at Stryker Soccer Complex in Wichita, Kansas.

Godwin and the Bullpups aren’t wanting to even think about their previous match against Mulvane on April 20, a 10-0 mercy rule win by McPherson.

“We have to look at this as a new game and a new team,” Godwin said. “We know they played a lot of other teams close and maybe they are better than we think.

“We need to come out like we did tonight against Circle and be prepared for anything.”

McPherson 3, Circle 1

McPherson 1;2—3

Circle 0;1—1

Goals: First half: 1. McPherson, Alexander, 30:03. Second half: 2. McPherson, Lauren Labertew, 22:39; McPherson,Kenzee Godwin, 8:34; 4. Circle, Brooklyn Hunter, 5;56.

Shots: McPherson 9, Circle 7. Saves: McPherson, Ella Buschbom 4, Circle, Hannah Stepp 4. 

Charles Chaney has been the Sports Editor for the Butler County Times-Gazette since Aug. 2019. You can reach him at or on Twitter at @ChuckChaneyBCTG.