Just after his team lost Tuesday, Blue Valley West girls’ soccer coach Alex Aiman shook his head, looked up and said what everyone in the stands at Blue Valley Northwest was already thinking.
“That was the real state final.”
His assertion that the girls’ 6A quarterfinal — which saw Blue Valley Northwest beat rival Blue Valley West 3-2 — featured the two best teams in Kansas wasn’t lost on his counterpart.
“I can see why he thinks that,” Blue Valley Northwest coach Rick Pribyl said after the victory. “I think if we played five times, we might tie all five times. We are very evenly-matched teams.”
The teams were tied 2-2 for much of the match before Blue Valley Northwest junior Cece Kizer found the back of the net on a corner kick from fellow junior Kenzi Taylor with fewer than 3 minutes remaining.
“I saw the ball go in and come back (away from the goal),” said senior Kara Priest, who led Blue Valley Northwest with two goals. “It dropped right in front of Cece and she just put it right in.
“I was so excited because I knew we had it won from there.”
The match endured a 35-minute lightning delay — which Blue Valley Northwest believed helped its team.
“The girls came out pumped and ready to play,” Pribyl said. “It was our chance to refocus. These girls are so close and tight-knit that they were able to joke and relax, and then come out here with more intensity.”
Prior to the delay, the teams traded early goals, with Priest scoring in the 5th and 11th minutes for Blue Valley Northwest, and Rachel Catrell matching her with goals in the 9th and 22nd minutes for Blue Valley West.
Then things went quiet. For the next 34 minutes of play, neither team could break the 2-2 tie thanks to diving stops and last-second saves by both schools.
“I just enjoy coaching this group of girls so much,” Pribyl said. “I told them it was more important to me that we got to practice tomorrow rather than actually winning this game. They are the best of friends, and it is such a joy to coach a group like that.”