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Five Thoughts on Regional Soccer


By Brad Hallier


HUTCHINSON, Kan. – Girls soccer continues to grow in Kansas.

Chanute now has girls soccer. Western Kansas had a great season, with Garden City and Dodge City being two of the top three seeds in Class 6A West, and Hays having a strong year in a loaded Class 5A West region. McPherson again has the look of a program that could become the first girls soccer state champion outside the Kansas City, Wichita and Topeka metros.

Here are five thoughts on teams in area regionals.

Buhler got a tough draw, but don’t underestimate what coach Randall Rank can do

Buhler rallied late in the season to finish eighth in the Class 4-3-2-1A West region. That’s good enough to get a home game, which will be at 6 p.m. Monday.

The bad news is the Crusaders, who have been a regional champion in each of the last three seasons and were state runner-up last season, have to play Wichita Trinity.

Wichita Trinity doesn’t quite have the pedigree in girls soccer as in boys. The Knights have not been to a state semifinal since 2016. But the Knights often play a grueling schedule that distorts their record. They have played the likes of Bishop Carroll, Wichita Northwest, Andover Central, Manhattan and McPherson this season. They are prepared.

But Buhler coach Randall Rank has established himself as one of the best in the business regarding in-season progress. The Crusaders started the season 0-4 and 1-5-1 before rattling off five wins in a row. Although they’ve lost 3 of 4 before regionals, two losses have been by one goal. Buhler is playing well. Just as Trinity will be prepared for this game, so will Buhler. It’s one of the most interesting first-round matchups.

Speaking of tough matchups, Hutchinson got one too

Hutchinson had plenty of good moments this season against a rugged schedule under first-year coach Jordan Downing. The Salthawks were in many games at halftime against top competition.

They will see another top opponent in Tuesday’s Class 5A first round, when the 12th-seeded Salthawks make the long trip to Hays. The Indians are 12-4, with two losses being in overtime to Dodge City and Valley Center.

But the last time the Salthawks were seeded 12th, they also made a trip west. That was in 2021, when the Salthawks were in Class 6A, beat Dodge City 3-2 in overtime, and then nearly pulled off another upset in the regional finals in a 1-0 loss to Wichita Northwest. This Salthawk team has similar capabilities.

Give it up for Nickerson

Nickerson didn’t have a lot of experience and a new coaching staff in Erin Ontjes and Mitch Hirst. And yet, the Panthers cobbled together a winning season, going 9-7 and earning the six seed in the 4-3-2-1A West region. Remarkable, especially when you factor in wins over top-seed Wichita Independent, an underrated Wichita Classical team, and three wins over 6A teams.

The Panthers got a tough draw, as they’ll host No. 11 Wichita Collegiate, which beat Nickerson 8-1 earlier this season. The smart bet, however, is the Panthers will give the Spartans a tougher game this time around, especially if junior Ayla Ontjes can play after breaking an arm late in the season.

McPherson is tested and ready for another deep postseason run

McPherson was so close … oh so close … to a first girls soccer state championship last season. The Bullpups took Bishop Miege all the way to penalty kicks in the semifinals – the Pups even had a fair penalty kick shout during overtime that could have won them the game – but lost.

McPherson is tested again, as coach Chris Adrian is not afraid of a rugged schedule. The Bullpups have played the likes of MIege, Topeka Hayden and Wichita Trinity, and at 12-4, they are the No. 3 seed in 4-3-2-1A West. Although a tasty quarterfinal with Circle could loom, should top-seed Wichita Independent slip up, McPherson would host a quarterfinal and could be set for another run to the state semifinals

How good is 5A West?

Maize South looks to follow up the boys’ team’s state championship with one of their own. Can the Mavericks do it? At 16-0, it appears so.

But the path to the semifinals won’t be easy. Goddard-Eisenhower is 8-8 and has a Division 1 player in Bella Smith. But Eisenhower isn’t even playing at home in the first round. Eisenhower could travel to Maize South for the regional championship.

Andover Central is a potential quarterfinal opponent, and all Central did was take Maize South to overtime. Or how about archrival Maize playing Maize South in the quarterfinals?