With the final seconds of the first half ticking away, Blue Valley Northwest senior Emily Herndon exchanged a knowing glance with sophomore Cece Kizer, who was up the field pressing Blue Valley’s defensive line.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
From near midfield, Herndon cracked a smooth right-footed delivery perfectly into Kizer’s path, which led to the pivotal goal in a 3-1 upset win for the seventh-seeded Huskies at the Kansas Class 6A Northeast Region 1 championship Thursday at BV West.
Kizer’s goal blunted the momentum that top-seeded Blue Valley had gained a few minutes earlier when junior Aubrey Jeffries cut BV Northwest’s deficit in half.
BV Northwest, 12-5-1, then packed numbers behind the ball during a scoreless second half en route to a berth in the state quarterfinals, but it was Kizer’s goal — a roller under Tigers goalkeeper Natalie Pace’s right foot — that proved to be the dagger.
“I saw Emily, she got her head up and we made eye contact, then I took the run,” Kizer said. “It was kind of scary at first, because I didn’t think I was going to get it in. When I saw the goalkeeper coming out, I went to the right a little bit then I shot it and it went under her foot and just went in.”
It was probably a fair result for Huskies, who dominated the first 30 minutes, controlling possession in the Tigers’ half of the field and dictating tempo from the opening whistle.
“When we played them earlier in the season, we lost in overtime, so everyone was really fired up to play them,” Huskies junior Kara Priest said. “We knew we had to come out strong and get the early lead. That was our motivation to come out hard.”
In the 12th minute, Kizer passed a ball from a crowd at the left post to unmarked Priest, who made a run toward the right post and rolled home the game’s initial goal.
Junior midfielder Kala Brundige finished off a scrum in the Blue Valley box to make it 2-0 in the 20th minute.
The Tigers, 15-3-0, steadied themselves during the final 10 minutes of the half and pulled one back in the 35th minute on Jeffries’ fourth goal of the season.
But with 13 seconds left before halftime, Kizer delivered the crushing blow for a BV Northwest squad that has made a habit of sterling postseason runs during coach Rick Pribyl’s tenure.
“We play a really tough schedule,” Pribyl said. “I always tell the parents and the kids: ‘Don’t look at us at the beginning of the season. Look at us and how we’re playing by the 10th or 11th game.’ That’s our goal. We don’t try to make giant steps at the beginning of the season. We want to get better each game and play our best at the end of the year.”
That plan seems to be working.
The flip side is that one of the best seasons in Blue Valley history came to an end.
“We got some breaks along the way, but we got on a roll and this is probably the best girls team physically, mentally and emotionally that I’ve ever coached in 30 years,” Tigers coach K. Dean Snell said.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.