Lee’s Summit West girls soccer coach Shaun Owens didn’t know how his team would react after suddenly finding itself down three goals with a state championship on the line. The Titans had never been in a hole that big this season, so this was unchartered territory.
Park Hill had walloped the Titans with a three-goal outburst in just four minutes, and the Titans wobbled.
But they didn’t fold.
West couldn’t overcome that barrage, but the Titans could make Park Hill sweat out the rest of the match before falling 3-2 in the Class 4 state final June 2 at Swope Soccer Village. And while the Titans came up just short of claiming their first state title since 2006, they could find consolation in knowing they went down swinging.
“They didn’t stop playing,” Owens said. “They could have easily quit down 3-0. And they fought through and they actually created an opportunity to try and win the game.”
West (23-2) already had two wins against Suburban Gold Conference rival Park Hill (22-3) this season – a 5-0 rout at Park Hill in March and a 1-0 nail-biter at home May 1. This match, the first-ever pitting Kansas City-area girls soccer teams in a state final, would be quite different.
West created the most chances early as it controlled play early, but that changed quickly when Park Hill started to get the ball downfield quickly on counter attacks.
A foul called after one Park Hill run set up a free kick for the Trojans 30 yards from the goal about 11 minutes into the game. The kick was deflected to Park Hill forward Alison Walls, who turned and fired for the first goal and her 32nd of the year.
Just under three minutes later, Park Hill midfielder Jayden Dorrell streaked downfield for a breakaway goal. Titans goalkeeper Tori Hunter stopped Dorrell’ first shot, but the ball bounced off Hunter and Dorrell tapped in the rebound.
And less than minute a minute after that, Park Hill’s Ayana Weissenfluh fired in a blast to the near post from 25 yards out.
Just like that, the Titans were down 3-0.
“For whatever reason, we just shot ourselves in the foot,” Owens said. “The goal that they got I think it shook us up a little bit. It took us a little bit to get our feet under us.”
West senior midfielder Grace Heenan said outburst took the Titans by surprise.
“I think it was just a couple of miscommunications,” Heenan said. “We didn’t communicate well with each other. For those four minutes they had it and for the rest of the game we completely dominated.”
West wasted no time climbing back into the game in the second half. Heenan put the Titans on the board with a shot inside the far post less than 12 minutes into the half.
When Carsyn Overin blasted a free kick from 30 yards out into the left corner of the net two minutes later, it was suddenly a one-goal game.
West kept up the offensive pressure the rest of the second half. The ball rarely left the Titans’ offensive third of the field as they made 16 shots to the Trojans’ three over the final 40 minutes. Park Hill goalkeeper Kelby Emerson made eight saves, including a fingertip stop on another Overin free kick late in the half.
“It wasn’t from lack of opportunities; the ball just didn’t fall our way,” Owens said. “We had some really good chances and their keeper made some really good saves.”
West reached the final by surviving a penalty-kick shootout with Eureka June 1 in the semifinals. The two teams were tied 2-2 after trading goals in regulation and remained deadlocked after two scoreless overtime periods.
West won the shootout 4-3, with Kassidy Newsom, Heenan, Kara Privitera and Makayla Martin converting penalty kicks for the Titans. Hunter blocked one Eureka PK, and the defending champion Wildcats’ fourth attempt sailed over the crossbar.
But West, which won conference and district titles along the way to a second-consecutive state tournament appearance, would end its season the next day minus its ultimate goal. Owens will lose 15 seniors of this year’s team, so making a third straight trip could be a challenge.
“We’re going to be young so obviously we’re going to have some new goals,” Owens said. “Hopefully we can get back to the final four and create an opportunity to win again.”