It’s never been a cut-throat rivalry between Lee’s Summit North and Lee’s Summit West in girls soccer. Most of these girls have been friends since they were little. Many play or have played on the same club teams.
It’s almost always been fierce yet friendly competition. This time, it might be a little more fierce. A chance to play for a state title is on the line, after all.
North, 21-3, and West, 16-5, meet at 2 p.m. today in the Class 4 state semifinals at Swope Soccer Village. It’s the third meeting between these city rivals this season, and both teams know this one will definitely not be as congenial.
“There’s more pressure and you don’t have friends,” West midfielder Jillian Leetch said. “You have to go after them; you can’t play them like they’re friends.”
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North and West knew this matchup was possible as they watched each other advance through the Class 4 bracket. It became a done deal after last Saturday’s quarterfinals, when West beat Columbia Rock Bridge 2-0 and North topped Park Hill 1-0. And after it was set, both coaches said they welcomed an opportunity to square off for a third time.
“It’s a challenge having to play them for a third time,” North coach Ryan Kelley said. “It would be fun to face somebody else, but it’s also fun to play against West. The players know each other, the coaches know each other, it’s competitive, it’s always a good match. I’m excited to see what happens.”
“We’re excited,” West coach Shaun Owens said. “Our girls really want to play North. We’re looking forward to playing Friday.”
North won both meetings this season, the first one a 2-1 decision April 13 at Bronco Stadium followed by a 2-0 victory May 9 in the annual Pink Out Game breast cancer fund-raiser at West. Kelley believes that game, with its large crowd and numerous pregame activities, could have the Broncos prepared for the state-tournament atmosphere.
That’s something neither team has experienced recently. North is in the final four for the first time since 2012; West hasn’t been since 2006.
“Our girls did a great job of being successful in that and handling all the additional expectations that you have to go along with that match,” Kelley said. “We’ll be able to handle that so once the whistle blows on Friday, all we’ll be concerned about is playing our game.”
North senior midfielder Alexis Mitchell said she’s anticipating a Pink Out-like atmosphere Friday.
“It’s going to be a lot more intense,” Mitchell said. “I’m guessing there’s going to be the same amount of fans pressure and media and stuff, but it’s going to be a lot more intense because more’s on the line.”
North’s game features a solid defense built around goalkeeper Sarah Peters. The Suburban Gold Conference’s goalie of the year, Peters has recorded 156 saves and 10 shutouts this season. The Broncos can score, too, with Mitchell tallying 16 goals and 14 assists this season, followed by sophomore Kaylie Rock with 12 goals and seven assists.
West will counter with Leetch and Kara Privitera, who both have a team high 14 goals, and Kassidy Newsom, who has 12. Leetch leads the team in assists with 14. The Titans can create numerous opportunities, but they often struggled to finish them. But in the four matches since the Pink Out loss at the end of the regular season, West has scored 19 goals without giving up one.
That’s a trend Owens said will need to continue Friday, especially considering his team outshot North in both meetings.
“We have to finish,” Owens said. “Sarah Peters is a tremendous goalie and she makes it difficult. But we have some kids who score goals and they’ve been unlucky the last two times we’ve faced them.”
Kelley faces the challenge of beating a team three times in one season, and making sure the Broncos aren’t complacent because they won the first two. He’s faced the same thing before this postseason, when the Broncos beat Blue Springs South in the district final and Park Hill in the quarterfinals.
“It’s hard having to face a team for a third time,” Kelley said. “It would be fun to play somebody else, but this is a great matchup and we’re real excited about it.”
Mitchell at first wanted to play someone different at state, but now she’s happy to be part of an all-Lee’s Summit semifinal. Even if this matchup is going to be a little less friendly.
“Any time we step on the field, it’s full game,” Mitchell said. “Maybe sometimes you see us cracking jokes and stuff, but when the score is 0-0 1-0 1-1, it’s all serious.”