Olathe East High School junior Maddie Taylor had no plans to let down her teammates.
Following a sequence of perfect passes that led to the soccer ball coming toward her in the Shawnee Mission Northwest penalty box, and with the SM Northwest goaltender charging in, Taylor knew she had to get to the ball first.
After a quick burst of speed and swift flick of her foot, the ball found the back of the net and marked the winning goal in Olathe East’s 2-1 victory on Monday at the Shawnee Mission District Soccer Complex.
For Taylor and the Hawks, the play represented a result of a recent focus in practice.
“I think we’ve been doing it for a couple of weeks now, practicing on playing it long to the corner and playing it to our players inside,” Taylor said. “I’m glad it worked out.”
Olathe East has also concentrated on set pieces and free kicks. It showed on the Hawks’ first goal, when Ellie Johnson rose above multiple players and headed in a perfect corner kick from teammate Grace Stein.
“I just kind of jumped out of the pack and it deflected off my head in,” Johnson said. “We’ve been working on corner kicks a lot.”
A perennial power under longtime coach Terry Hair, Olathe East began the soccer season slower than normal, going 3-3-1 its first seven games. Since then, the Hawks have won five straight and seem to be clicking at the right time with postseason play just around the corner.
“I think we’re getting better,” Hair said. “We didn’t start off the season real well, but we’ve got a string of wins going. I think the girls are getting more accustomed to the positional responsibilities that they have on this year’s team and they are contributing more.”