Things were looking good for the Blue Springs South girls soccer team to start the season as it raced out to a 5-2 record.
But they had run into some tough sledding the past week. The Jaguars must have felt like they had run through a gauntlet during that span. Since last Thursday, the Jaguars had lost three in a row, two of which were to top 10 state-ranked teams Lee's Summit North and Park Hill.
The next hurdle came in the form of the Class 2 No. 3-ranked Kearney Bulldogs, a state final four team last season. South ended the skid, and although it wasn't a win, coach Todd Findley came away from the contest extremely pleased after a 1-1 tie in the final game of the Blue Springs South Tournament Thursday, pushing its record to 5-5-1.
“We rebounded after a tough loss on Tuesday,” Findley said of his team's 3-2 loss to Park Hill South. “We came out and did a very good job tonight. We never lost confidence even during the losing streak. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger. We're just really happy about this game.”
Part of the inspired effort was the play of goalkeeper Megan Swanson, who had 10 saves on the night against a Kearney offense that held a 12-5 shot-on-goal advantage. While her outstanding play shined, she deferred the credit to her teammates.
“My defense just did an outstanding job tonight,” Swanson said. “We were all out there as a team and defended well throughout the game.”
The freshman's only blemish came when Madi Payne sent a kick from the top right side of the penalty box off the crossbar, out of the reach of Swanson's outstretched hands and past the goal line for the score, making it 1-0 with 5:28 left in the first half.
South answered early in the second half when Emily Griffin made the most of her first shot attempt of the game. She received a cross from Nina Stine right at the goal mouth and booted it past the diving Courtney Snider for her 13th goal of the season, making it 1-1 at the 27th minute.
“Nina has done that time and time again for us with her speed,” Findley said. “She is able to get in deep and serve those crosses. Emily is so dangerous on her finishes. It was wonderful to watch.”
Like it had all game, Kearney kept the pressure on the South defense. In the final 11 minutes of the game, the Bulldogs missed three shots in open space, including one from Allie Hess, who kicked the ball inside the right goalpost but it bounced out in front of Swanson as she gathered it.
“Oh yeah, I was getting a little nervous, my heart was racing,” Swanson said. “I just tried to get my body behind the ball, and I did for the most part.”
The Jaguars had one golden opportunity to score in the 35th minute when Griffin found a wide-open path to a goal but was called offside.
Although the game may have been a little too close for comfort, Findley feels good about his team's chances heading into the bulk of the conference schedule, especially hanging tough with what he called a “very good Kearney team” that is 11-2-2.
“This was a really good tournament where we were able to see some really good competition,” Findley said. “Hopefully, we will be able to settle in now and be able to get ourselves stronger for conference.”