Olathe East’s boys soccer team approached this year’s state tournament with the mentality that it could take nothing for granted.
The Hawks learned that the hard way last season, when they took a 19-0-0 record into the state semifinals, but fell 2-0 to Manhattan. This time around, Olathe East did not let that opportunity slip away again.
Olathe East defeated Wichita East 4-0 in the semifinals, then topped Washburn Rural 2-1 in the championship to take home its first state title since 2008. It was the Hawks’ sixth overall state championship.
“They very much will treasure this moment,” Hawks coach Terry Hair said. “They had an opportunity last year with a different group of guys, but coming close and not achieving it added a little more realization that you have to take that trip to the final four very seriously.”
The Hawks were led by Shane Kopplin and Mark Vanlandingham. Both players scored at least three goals during the Hawks’ final four matches.
“We stayed within what we do well,” Hair said. “We possessed. We distributed from one flank of the field to the other to get the opposing team to chase, and then — when we did get into the final attacking third — we had numbers and some exceptional shots taken.”
The Hawks finished the season with a 20-1-0 record.
Defending state champion Blue Valley Northwest lost its semifinal match to Washburn Rural 1-0, but bounced back to defeat Wichita East 7-0 for third place. The Huskies finished 17-3-1 this season.
Class 5A: Saints repeat
If there was ever a perfect ending for a foreign exchange student’s soccer season, a good case can be made for Lasse Nilsen of St. Thomas Aquinas.
Not only did Nilsen score two goals in a 6-0 rout of Harmon in the Kansas Class 5A state championship match, but his family in Sweden was able to watch it all happen — thanks to an online broadcast from the Kansas State High School Activities Association.
“His family back in Sweden had a watch party at three in the morning and were watching him live playing in a state final — then he gets two goals,” Aquinas coach Craig Ewing said. “You probably could not write a much better foreign exchange student story for him.”
The Saints defended their Class 5A state title and finished the season with a 19-2-0 record. It was the Saints’ eighth title in the last 11 years. Overall, Aquinas has won 16 boys state championships.
“I thought our kids played their best game of the year on Saturday,” Ewing said. “I thought our defense really keyed what happened and we scored on four set pieces, which is kind of our M.O.”
Class 4-1A: Bishop Miege second
Although Bishop Miege lost 2013 Eastern Kansas League Defender of the Year Brandon Ramirez to an ACL tear and started the season with a 1-2-2 record, the two-time defending champion Stags battled their way back to the Kansas Class 4-1A state tournament.
Miege defeated Ottawa 4-1 in the semifinals, but fell short of a third straight title after a 1-0 loss to Rose Hill in the title match. The Stags ended their season with a 14-4-2 record.