After the final whistle and the usual dog pile of a Kansas 6A state soccer championship team, the Olathe East Hawks found their way to the fence line of Hummer Sports Complex. Greeting them were supporters decked out in orange and blue.
Senior Zac Marquess led the charge, with two hands grasping the trophy and the rest of team right behind him.
For Olathe East, it’s all about the team. A collective effort and discipline, especially in the defensive end, helped the Hawks defeat Washburn Rural 2-1 on Saturday.
“It means everything to these guys,” Marquess said. “Since day one, this has been our goal. It’s awesome. It’s an unreal feeling.”
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Olathe East was an early aggressor from the beginning, getting chances around the box. The aggressiveness finally paid off for the Hawks at the 16:04 mark of the first half.
Logan Steen managed to beat a few Junior Blue defenders in the box and found Shane Kopplin for the team’s first goal.
“I just looked up, took a hit,” Kopplin said. “I didn’t really see it go in the net. Everyone was screaming and I just ran to the fans.”
Olathe East continued to push forward on offense and got another goal on a solid strike by Mark Vanlandingham in the 38 minute, giving the Hawks a 2-0 lead.
“Lucas (Reynolds) always plays my feet on throws and he just played me perfect,” Vanlandingham said. “I always like to turn, and my left’s better than my right and I hit it in.”
Olathe East scoring right before halftime put the pressure on Washburn Rural.
“They were better in the first half,” Washburn Rural coach Brian Hensyel said. “Halftime we just challenged the guys, if you’ve got anything left in the tank you’ve got to find it.”
Another key for the Hawks was shutting down Austin Halsey for the first 75 minutes of the game. Halsey, the top goal scorer in Washburn Rural history and an All-American, has been on fire for most of the season, scoring more than 30 goals.
“We know we have the skill to posses and move forward, but when we defend as a team we defend really well,” Marquess said.
The Hawks tried to stay in their base defense throughout the game, but shifted their attention when Halsey got the ball in his area.
“We didn’t mark him around the field, we just chose to be full aware of his capabilities, which are tremendous,” Olathe East coach Terry Hair said.
But in the last 5 minutes of the game Halsey pulled off another strike that reduced the deficit to one goal.
From that point, the Hawks did their best to play keep-away and run out the clock.
“We regrouped and ended up coming out with a victory,” Marquess said.
Olathe East ended the season at 20-1, with a chance to move up in several of the national high school polls.
But for now the team and coach Hair just want to celebrate the moment and what this group accomplished.
“The team chemistry was very evident,” Hair said. “They love each other. It’s almost like a brotherhood. That’s an intangible; you can’t coach that.”
Blue Valley Northwest 7, Wichita East 0
Blue Valley Northwest showed in the third-place game why it was nationally ranked earlier this season.
The Huskies played most of their starters for the first half and scored three goals. Trevor Kerns got two goals, and Brian Kim scored the other.
BV Northwest, 17-3-1, tacked on four more goals in the second half, including another one by Kerns, giving him a hat trick.