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Back Again: Lady Pups Soccer Cruises to Regional Championship

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By Joel Muhs

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MCPHERSON – Two days after the McPherson High School baseball and softball team claimed their own respective regional titles, the girls soccer team added one more to the list as the Lady Pups blitzed Thomas More Prep 12-0 on Tuesday and glided past Wichita Collegiate 4-0 on Thursday to punch their ticket to the state quarterfinals.

Over the last few years, the McPherson girls soccer team hoisting a regional championship trophy has become a staple in the soccer community. In those same few years, the Lady Pups have earned two third-place finishes at state, which included taking six-time reigning champion Bishop Miege to the brink of elimination in a penalty kick shootout in last year’s state semifinals.

This year, No. 3 seed McPherson looks to carry that same postseason magic following their 4-0 win over No. 11 seed Wichita Collegiate Thursday evening at the high school.

“When your program has been here a lot, that target is on your back every year – and these girls feel that pressure. They’re high school kids and they feel that and they don’t want to not make it, and sometimes that fear of making a mistake is what keeps you from playing your best,” McPherson head soccer coach Chris Adrian said about McPherson’s well-known success. “What you saw today from the first ten minutes, they came out hungry, they came out ready to go and I think we won the game in the first ten minutes.”

That first ten minutes included two early goals by McPherson, as a sweet header by Ellie Bower that was assisted by Brodie Kuhn found the back of the net just six minutes in, and then it was Bower assisting the goal to Addison Shaft two minutes later to make it a quick 2-0 lead for the Lady Pups.

“We were really clinical in front of the goal with our finishing. Ellie had an awesome game up there with two goals and two assists. You could see with the way she practiced yesterday, I told coach Bowen ‘I bet she’s going to at least have a hat trick’ and she ended up getting assists instead of goals,” Adrian said about McPherson’s ability to put away the Spartans early on. “All over the field, we played really well and I think our captains and our seniors especially led by example. It took a lot of pressure off those younger girls out there.”

McPherson added to its lead with four minutes and twenty-seven seconds to play in the first half when Bower buried her second goal of the game for a 3-0 lead, which is where the score would stay heading into halftime. The lead would remain at 3-0 nearly halfway through the second half until Baylee Simmelink became the third Lady Pup to net a goal with 22:12 to play and extend the McPherson lead to 4-0.

Not only will McPherson be heading back to the state quarterfinals but they will be doing so in style, as the Lady Pups are riding a current six-game winning streak. The McPherson defense has also blanked their opponent in five straight games, which brings their season total up to 11 shutouts.

“It’s another shutout for our defense. I think we’re at eleven right now,” Adrian said about the defense. “Everyone was talking about what we were going to do replacing Sydney and Grace last year because those were two phenomenal defenders, and we have stepped up and even improved in some areas on that. Our defense deserves a ton of credit.”

Before reaching Thursday evening’s title game, McPherson mowed through Hays Thomas More Prep 12-0 on Tuesday. In that matchup, nine different Lady Pups scored in a game that was called at halftime due to McPherson being up by 10 goals at the break.

Once the Lady Pups setup their matchup with the Spartans, McPherson was able to use their past experience against Collegiate this season when they took out the Spartans 4-0 on Thursday, May 2 in Wichita to repeat history for their second 4-0 win over a Collegiate team that was playing sneaky good soccer heading into the postseason.

“They came in playing really good and they play a tough schedule. They went down and played Miege the day before we did and you can tell their program is on the right track where they’re challenging themselves. This was no easy game,” Adrian said about Collegiate. “Our girls had to play their best soccer to get it done and I thought we did that.”

Now, with their eyes set on another state semifinal appearance and perhaps a second shot this season at Bishop Miege, the eight McPherson seniors and the rest of the Lady Pups look to guide themselves to some more state hardware by the end of next week.

“They come in with so much experience. They’re calm, they’re not playing under pressure and that energy just trickles down to the juniors, the sophomores and all of those freshmen that are playing so well right now,” Adrian said. “They feel like they can just go out there and play relaxed and confident, and that comes from the experience of this senior class. They’ve been here before and know what to do.”

“No matter who we play, it’s going to be a really, really tough team. We’re going to get back to work tomorrow, get some of the things we struggled with today wrinkled out and be ready to go.”

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