Lee’s Summit North girls soccer had the majority of its starting lineup graduate from last season’s Class 5 state runner-up squad.
But one huge piece of that team came back in junior Kaylie Rock, who came up with some clutch goals in the 2017 postseason, helping her team reach the state championship game.
The playoffs got underway for the Broncos Tuesday and Rock continued her postseason form from the previous season. She scored a whopping four goals to lead North to a 6-2 victory over Blue Springs in the Class 5 District 14 tournament semifinals at Larry Stewart Memorial Stadium.
The Broncos advance to play against Blue Springs South in the championship at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
“It’s going to be another great match we have with them,” North coach Ryan Kelley said. “This will be the fifth year in a row we play them in the district finals. We also play them twice a year, so they are a familiar opponent.”
Kelley acknowledged that Rock was one of the best players for the Broncos last season and that she has had a knack for making big goals this season, including a a game-winner against South in the last regular season game.
“With all of the players we lost last year, teams have been able to focus on Kaylie a lot more,” Kelley said. “This time of year, she was one of our two best players when we went through the postseason last year.
“People knew who she was, so teams are trying to man mark her. As of late, she really got locked in and has played more consistently. Earlier in the year she was missing chances and getting frustrated. She stayed after it and has had a tremendous season for us.”
This year, North has only scored four or more goals two times. In one of those games, Rock had five goals in a 7-1 win against Raymore-Peculiar.
It didn’t take Rock long to get things started as she scored from inside the 18-yard box off an assist from Katie Shatzer in the fourth minute. A little later in the half, she made a run on a Hallie Hill corner kick and booted a shot that deflected off Wildcats goalkeeper Desiree Barajas and into the goal for a 2-0 edge.
“Coming in we were pumped and excited for this game,” Rock said. “We had energy right from the beginning. I knew within the first 5 minutes that we had it and that we were going to get the victory.”
“We were very aggressive in the first 10 minutes and were the first to every ball. We just didn’t back off and we connected really well.”
Even through the Broncos (9-12) took the early lead, Blue Springs did not quit. Sophomore Alyssa Carroll sent a cross to Katie Cole, who unleashed a shot from the right wing to perfectly fit the ball in the upper left corner of the goal to narrow the gap to 2-1 in the 18th minute.
With 7:04 remaining in the first half, a North defender missed a clear attempt. Blue Springs senior Olivia Sharp took advantage when she flew in and put in a close-range shot to tie it 2-2, which was the score at halftime.
Just when it seemed like the Wildcats (3-15) had all the momentum, Rock started a streak of four unanswered goals when she received a pass from Cara Panarisi and rainbowed a shot from the top of the half circle over Barajas’ head to put North ahead for good.
Joanie Westcoat made a shot from a similar distance with 19:13 left; Rock scored on another long-range shot in the 61st minute and Jayme Coon capped the scoring with a laser from the left side of the box that went inside the far post.
Blue Springs coach Doug McLagan said his team’s slow start contributed to the loss, but as it had happened all season, his team ran out of energy at the end, which resulted in some long-range goals for the Broncos.
“We wore down a little bit,” McLagan said. “I think that nine of the 10 goals they scored on us this year were long-range shots. In the second half, we had to stop them from taking clean, long-range shots. From a far out distance, they were able to make it.
“In the first 15 minutes, I didn’t know if we were nervous or scared, or what. It was not good. The effort and the attitude and the determination to come back into the game was massive. They showed a lot of character.”