Literally, the Blue Springs girls soccer team that traveled Tuesday to Lee’s Summit North was not the same group that, in the words of coach Doug McLagan, “got smashed” 5-0 by the Broncos at home three weeks ago.
With senior Gabi Severns on crutches due to a knee injury suffered last week, the Wildcats played without one of the area’s top midfielders. But they turned in perhaps their best performance of the season, making Morgan Hensley’s late first half goal stand for a 1-0 win over a Lee’s Summit North team that had been unbeaten in the Suburban Big Six and ranked sixth in the Class 3 state coaches poll.
While Blue Springs (9-3, 4-3 Big Six) has just an outside chance at the league title, McLagan said the win was a big confidence-booster.
“We came in and did some tactically different things tonight, and it paid off,” he said. “We got a good win. Gabi Severns didn’t play tonight, so that’s something we’ve got in our back pocket for districts, too.”
“We came into the game thinking we could win,” Hensley added. “All week we talked about how we could beat them. We can, we just have to play good.”
The Wildcats certainly did that in the first half, using the wind at their back to consistently serve the ball deep, winning enough midfield balls to maintain pressure and keeping the clamps on Hannah Bomar and her fellow North attackers.
“The wind was a factor, but the idea was to attack their backs and not allow them time to attack ours,” McLagan said, “and that’s where our midfield got out, and (Kailey) Micek did an excellent job at the defensive midfield, giving them no time. Every ball that went to Bomar was contested.
“We were in their face every time, and last time we weren’t.”
North (8-5-2, 5-1) didn’t get off its first shot until the 32nd minute, as Blue Springs owned a 10-2 advantage in first-half shots (five on goal). In the 38th minute, Hensley found herself in space atop the penalty box. She deked right to easily shed a defender and unleashed a cross-net shot that Bronco goalkeeper Bailey Doerflinger had no chance to snare.
“I had a couple shots on goal where I was contested by a couple defenders,” Hensley said. “I finally had one open and I put it in.”
North tried to turn the tables in the second half and got off 12 shots, nine of them on goal, but Blue Springs managed some attacks to keep the Broncos honest, and Wildcats goalkeeper Lindsey Davis had every shot sized up.
The best of her 10 saves came in the 61st minute, when Bomar broke free with a through ball, Davis stepped up for a point-blank stop and defenders arrived to clear out the scramble. In the 77th she stopped a free kick from 20 yards out.
“That’s the best game I’ve seen her play,” McLagan said of Davis. “She made some crucial saves, but the elementary stuff, on a wet night – she had her body behind everything, and because of that she made saves that she should, but in these conditions sometimes you don’t. She was fabulous.”
The junior keeper agreed that it felt like her best game, “but I also had a great team in front of me,” she said. “Defenders getting back, heading, clearing the ball out. McLagan talked about getting behind the ball every chance I had.
“I was contested a few times, but that one-on-one with Hannah – great save, just a great team effort all around. Without Gabi, we knew we’d have to work to win, but we knew we could do it.”
North coach Ryan Kelley indicated that his team might have overlooked Blue Springs a bit after the 5-0 win.
“The first half, Blue Springs did a good job coming out, and they were ready to play,” he said. “I think they wanted to get back at us a little bit. The last time we played them the score definitely was not a good indication of the game. They were a better team, and I don’t think we were ready for that.
“They had a couple nice counters, one of which resulted in their goal. Part of that is us not working back, making mistakes, not doing the things that make us a good team. It was a nice goal – I don’t want to take anything away from that – and it took us a while to wake up and get going.”