The first thing Allie Stephenson talks about when discussing Ashley Licata is her speed.

The first thing Allie Stephenson talks about when discussing Ashley Licata is her speed.

Stephenson, the star senior on the Lee’s Summit North girls soccer team, is used to seeing her teammate outsprint opponents for long balls that seem well out of her range.

Broncos coach Tim Richardson is accustomed to that too, but he points out that it’s more than her breakaway burst that makes her unique.

“She has really good quickness, and speed,” said Richardson, whose team is preparing for Friday’s Class 3 state semifinal against St. Joseph's Academy (15-6-1) at Blue Springs South High School. “They’re not identical. She’s good at going from here to that spot right there two yards away, and then she can flat out run. That poses threats and danger to defenses.”

And second-ranked North (23-3) has utilized that weapon more and more as the stakes have gotten higher. Richardson admitted that through districts, Licata’s production – nine goals – was a little lower than what he’d expected.

The last week, however, has been a different story. In North’s 3-0 sectional win over Raymore-Peculiar, Licata netted a goal and an assist. Then, in Saturday’s 4-0 triumph over Park Hill South in the state quarterfinals, she exploded for a pair of goals and another assist.

Licata and Richardson were at a loss when asked to explain the senior’s sudden emergence, other than a natural sense of urgency that comes at this time of year.

“Once you start getting into the postseason, districts start rolling around, and if you lose you’re done,” Licata said. “A lot of our players have stepped up, including me. We know we need to get the job done.”

Licata added that she’s continued to benefit playing alongside Stephenson, who has totaled 31 goals this season. The two have played together since the third grade, so manufacturing on-field cohesion is simple.

“Our chemistry is just there,” Licata said. “We have it. We’ve always had it since we were kids. I know I have somebody on top that can help me. I know where she is on the field at all times so it’s easier for me to just play a ball without really thinking about it.”

While Licata credits Stephenson for improving her game, Stephenson returns the compliment and adds that Licata’s attitude has a trickle-down effect on the entire squad.

“She’s really positive,” Stephenson said. “I’ve never heard her say anything bad about anyone on the team. She can really get us motivated, and if we need someone to step up when we’re not playing well, she’s always there.”