It’s been awhile since Blue Springs veteran girls soccer coach Doug McLagan has been in this position – 2013 to be exact.
His Wildcats won their first district title in six years after a 2-1 overtime win over the Fort Osage Indians in the Class 4 District 14 final last Thursday.
Coming into the season, Blue Springs had been rebuilding for the past three years, posting an 11-42-1 record in that span.
“We go into districts every year looking at Lee’s Summit North and Blue Springs South, and that’s a mountain to climb if you want to win districts,” McLagan said. “This year, the mountain wasn’t so high. We ended up having a couple of tough games. In the past, we had a chance. But if you won one, you would have to turn around two days later, and create another miracle.”
The Wildcats also hadn’t had a win in the conference since 2014. They ended that drought this year with a win over Raymore-Peculiar on April 23 and added two more.
“Making sectionals and winning in conference gave us a ton of confidence,” Blue Springs junior midfielder Katy Knudsen said.
This season seems like the turning point for the program. It will have a chance to advance to the Class 4 state quarterfinals when it takes on conference rival Lee’s Summit North in a sectional playoff at 6 p.m. today at North. The winner meets Staley or Liberty in Saturday’s quarterfinal.
The Wildcats (9-13) split the season series with the Broncos in a pair of close games. They lost the first contest 2-1 and won the second 3-2.
The Broncos will be coming in with plenty of momentum of their own as they defeated perennial power St. Teresa’s Academy 2-1 in the Class 4 District 13 final.
“They beat St. Teresa’s twice, which is phenomenal for them,” McLagan said. “If that team shows up, it could be a really tough game.”
The Wildcats will have to stop the Broncos’ top scorer Kaylie Rock, who tallied the most goals during North’s playoff run to the state championship game in 2017. On offense, the Wildcats have depended on a balanced attack.
“She’s a heck of a player and every team seems to have a Kaylie Rock on their team,” McLagan said. “We don’t have a Kaylie, but we have six or seven girls who can go in and score. I like how we are, spread out.”
Along with Rock, Blue Springs has to contend with North’s experienced midfield.
“Their combination in their midfield is really good,” Knudsen said. “We’re going to have to put a lot of pressure on them to keep them from scoring.”
Blue Springs hopes to continue to ride the wave of solid defense as goalkeeper Gabi Elliott has allowed just one goal so far in the playoffs.
“Oh, she’s been amazing,” Knudsen said. “She had to fill some pretty big shoes, and she’s done great.”
Added McLagan: “The past few games, (Elliott) saved our backsides.”
It will also help Blue Springs’ cause that it’s getting healthy at the right time.
“We have had so many injuries we’ve had to battle through, pretty much half our team.” junior defender Alyssa Carroll said.
North coach Ryan Kelley praised the Blue Springs defense.
“They are very organized in the back and they are well coached,” Kelley said. “They make it hard to score. They get numbers behind the ball and they defend on the ball very well.”
The odds are even between both teams, he added. And he expects it to be a close game like the first two.
“Both teams are in similar spots,” Kelley said. “We both match up real well. It should be a tight affair tomorrow night.”