Throughout Saturday’s season opener against Van Horn, Blue Springs boys soccer players kept encouraging their teammates to “get psycho.”
It was an initiative pushed by assistant coach Ari Rodopoulos.
The strategy seemed to work against the Falcons as the Wildcats scored three-first half goals on the way to a 3-0 victory in the first round of the Raytown South Tournament.
“We knew this was going to be a hard game,” Blue Springs senior Carlos Llamas said. “But we came out hard and came out with the dub (win).”
The victory could be considered Blue Springs’ biggest in a long time. Last season, Van Horn was considered one of the top teams in the state and made the Class 3 final four and finished with a tie for third place.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, haven’t had a winning season since 2009 and only won a total of four games from 2015 to 2017. Last season was a step in the right direction at 8-17, its best record since 2014.
Now, with a huge victory early, Llamas yelled, “This is a different team!” as the final whistle sounded
“The guys are putting in effort every day in practice,” Llamas said. “We’re getting done in the classroom and getting in done on the field. Everyone is competing for a starting 11 spot, and we’re just going to keep going.”
Part of the reason for that was the encouragement from teammates to “get psycho.” Blue Springs played a physical style of defense that made it difficult for Van Horn to get open shots.
“Psycho just means that we’re going balls to the wall,” Blue Springs senior Jessie Haynie said. “We’re just throwing everything (at them). We’re giving it our all.”
In fact, it was the first time a team had shut out Van Horn since Kansas City East did it in the Class 3 District 15 championship game in 2016.
While Blue Springs played excellent defense, it was an off game for the Falcons. Head coach Jesus Rodriguez had to go deep into his bench because of a handful of injuries. He said his team was missing six starters, including both varsity goalkeepers, Cooper Sumpter and Adrian Chivira. Junior varsity keeper Christian Calderon started in their place.
“A lot of the guys were not mentally prepared because we have so many guys out,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of our (experienced) guys were getting frustrated with the young guys because they weren’t making the right decisions with the ball.
“We can’t do anything but go up from here.”
The Wildcats took it to the Falcons early as Llamas punched in a header off a cross from sophomore Caden Hoehns in the third minute.
Llamas added another score in the 11th minute when he drilled a shot inside the upper right corner of the goal after receiving a short cross from junior Micah Lubin.
Haynie capped the scoring when he tracked down a loose ball off a corner kick in the 27th minute and punched one in from midway inside the Van Horn 18-yard box.
“We have a new strategy, a new philosophy and a new formation,” Blue Springs coach Mike Palermo said. “We stuck to that, and I think that’s why we scored three goals.
“What a big performance for us tonight. I think they’ve won the tournament (last year) and to come out and beat them 3-0, that’s a step in the right direction.”
The Wildcats advanced to Tuesday’s 7 p.m. semifinal against St. Michael the Archangel Catholic or North Kansas City.