Coming into the 2018 girls soccer season, Blue Springs South coach Todd Findley knew his team was thin at the midfield position.
He had to make a change.
Taylor Gardner, who commited to Kansas State University and made the all-state team as a defender, was moved to the attacking midfielder position after missing South’s first seven games due to injury.
The move paid off for Findley this season and it showed Tuesday when Gardner scored the go-ahead goal after receiving a through ball from Brie Severns, finishing a shot in the 56th minute to help her team claim a 2-1 victory over crosstown rival Blue Springs at Peve Stadium.
“She’s adjusted marvelously,” Findley said of Gardner. “When she came back from injury and our back line was set, I didn’t want to disrupt that. I needed some skill in the midfield. Taylor brings skill, talent and athleticism. She’s fit really well in the midfield.”
Findley said the biggest asset Gardner has as an attacker is her vision, which had helped her make the seamless transition to her new position.
“Tay sees the game unlike a lot of players,” Findley said. “In the back she sees it well. But we need her in the midfield to combine with Brie in those elements. She’s filled the gap that we really needed. She has been creating that ball distribution that we’ve been looking for.”
Recently, Gardner has become more of a scorer. Her goal Tuesday was her third of the season.
Gardner said she had never played attacking midfield in her entire soccer career, but said she now has a good feel for it.
“Brie played an amazing through ball to me and I set up for my shot,” Gardner said. “She worked really hard for that one.
“It’s been really interesting. It’s fun for me to get up and go instead of just sitting in the back. I like it.”
So if there is ever a point when Findley needs his best defense on the field in the playoffs, would he consider switching Gardner to the backline?
“You know, I haven’t yet,” Findley said. “I don’t sub my backs a lot there and we don’t have a lot of depth. But she was all-state honorable mention there last year makes her the player to be there. It’s definitely a possibility.”
The Jaguars got things started in the second minute when Logan Abernathy put a shot in the back of the net off an assist from Severns for a 1-0 lead.
“I saw a little opening and I decided to take my chance,” Abernathy said. “It was honestly the luckiest shot I ever took. I was expecting the shot to go way over.”
Blue Springs kept pace with South in terms of possession and got the equalizer after a handball penalty on the Jaguars inside the 18-yard box. Mady Cates made South pay when she tucked in a penalty kick in the upper left corner of the goal to tie it in the 27th minute.
However, the Wildcats ran out of gas in the second half, which led to their downfall, head coach Doug McLagan said.
“I don’t think we played that well in the first half, but we competed,” McLagan said. “We made too many mistakes in both halves. We defended more than we should’ve. When you’re chasing and chasing, you run out of gas. There was a 20-minute period in the second half where we couldn’t win a ball. That’s when they got their second goal. It felt like we could have played better.”
South (11-8, 6-5 Big Seven) will go into the Class 4 District 13 tournament as the No. 1 seed and will take on Fort Osage on May 15. Blue Springs (3-13, 0-9) and Lee’s Summit North are also in the tournament.
“Lee’s Summit North is always good and we battle them,” Findley said. “Blue Springs showed that they may not beat a bunch of these teams, but they are going to give them a battle. Then you have Fort Osage with this remarkable record that’s an unknown outside of this conference. Even though we are the No. 1 seed, this is an even district.”
Added McLagan: “Lee’s Summit North, I know we can beat them. We just need everything to click. If that happens, we stand a chance. I think everyone in this district stands a chance.”