Keelie Fothergill experienced the tears, hugs and disappointment that come from falling oh-so-close to a state championship.
But as she walked off the Swope Soccer Village pitch Saturday afternoon with her Lee’s Summit North teammates and a second-place medal around her neck, Fothergill overcame the sadness just thinking about the journey the Broncos took to get there.
“I think we accomplished so much,” Fothergill said. “We made goals in every challenge we faced.”
Conference championship? Check. District title? Check. Get past St. Teresa’s in the playoffs, make state and win a semifinal showdown with Lee’s Summit West? Check, check and check.
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North looked ready to check off that final goal when it took the lead against Eureka in the Class 4 final. But Eureka stunned the Broncos with a quick equalizer early in the second half and struck for another quick goal late in the match for a 2-1 victory.
North, 22-4, took its lead at the end of an evenly played first half on a goal by Kaylie Rock, who headed a corner kick from Alexis Mitchell inside the far post two minutes before intermission. Rock, a sophomore who scored both goals in North’s 2-0 victory over in Friday’s all-Lee’s Summit semifinal, accounted for all the Broncos’ goals in the tournament.
With their solid back line and the brilliant play of goalkeeper Sarah Peters, who had 10 shutouts and 162 save to her credit this season, the Broncos thought they were sitting pretty.
“We felt really confident going into the second half but at the same time we knew it’s a long way,” North coach Ryan Kelley said. “We felt confident we were going to keep them out, but credit to Eureka. They made the plays today and they got the goals.”
Eureka got the first one two minutes of the second half when Samantha Courtois wound up and fired from 10 yards outside of the 18-yard box. Peters had no chance of stopping the booming shot as it sailed high into the back left of the net.
The blast was so hard and so sudden, Fothergill said it did leave the Broncos rattled.
“It happened really fast,” Fothergill said. “I hardly even saw it. Initially heads dropped and I think it kind of shook us a little bit.”
North was also trying to shake the physical play of Eureka, which became more effective in the second half. After playing Eureka on even terms in the first half, the Broncos could generate little offense in the second and were outshot 6-1.
“They were a big team and they were physical,” Fothergill said. “I think we played well against it but it’s not our style of play.”
Courtois struck for the game-winner in the 67th minute, and the play started at almost the exact same spot on the field. Jodi Mocker hit a free kick from there, and Courtois ran in on the ball and punched it in the net. And soon Eureka, 19-6, would have the second girls soccer title in school history.
“It’s been a tough weekend playing back to back in this heat,” Kelley said. “But I thought still at the end our girls were showing a good fight getting the ball forward and trying to do what we could.”
Less than 24 hours earlier, North fought hard to get two second half goals and earn its third victory this season over West.
Rock finished a short cross from Alexis Mitchell in the 58th minute, making a good run on the ball to find the far post. Her second goal in the 70th minute was a little more creative: she took the ball right in front of the right post and shot a beeline that found the opposite post.
“I saw just a perfect crack between the goal and (West goalkeeper Tori Hunter) and I thought this is a great chance and I have to take it,” Rock said.
Neither team could break through in a back-and-forth first half, which saw West put constant pressure on Peters and the North defense. Peters was credited with six saves in recording her 11th shutout. Hunter had seven saves.
“We felt we had them the first half, West coach Shaun Owens said. “We felt we outplayed them and then in the second half we had heavy legs and North played very well in the second half.”
North struggled with its stamina the next day against Eureka and would come up empty as it tried to win its first state title since 2000. That’s about the only accomplishment that eluded the Broncos this season.
“I’m still so proud of this team,” Fothergill said. “I love them to pieces and I’m going to miss them so much.”