All smiles: Jaguars happy for mental boost from playing despite loss

Bill Althaus
Blue Springs South's Maddie Rosenblum, center, is congratulated by teammate Kennedi Hooks, right, after scoring a goal during Thursday's game in the 2020 Kansas City High School Showcase at Wyandotte Sporting Fields in Kansas City, Kan. Rosenblum scored both goals for South but the Jaguars fell 4-2.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The smiles and spirited banter on the sidelines of the Blue Springs South girls soccer game against Liberty North High School early Friday morning set the tone fwo days of soccer.

As his players jokingly mocked the material in their Sporting KC tournament jerseys, coach Todd Findley joked,” I’m going back to South this afternoon. I think I can find some nice, thick wool jerseys with a collar.”

Senior Maddy Geren, who was a beast on defense in the 4-2 loss to the Eagles, moaned.

“Then I forfeit,” said the spirited defender, who recently graduated, as her teammates laughed. “I can't wear this jersey, let alone a wool jersey.”

There were no bleachers, clock or programs at the 2020 Kansas City High School Showcase at Wyandotte Sporting Fields in Kansas City, Kan.

But no one seemed to care.

The morning got off to a memorable start as a teammate noticed a tick on the back of Daya Vanderlow’s shorts.

As most of the team backed off in shock, Brooklyn Watkins came to the rescue and calmly picked off the tick.

“And then she threw it on the ground!” a teammate said, in mock horror.

Watkins grinned and said, “But I pulled its head off first.”

Findley followed with the comment of the day, adding, “Knowing Brooklyn, I’m surprised she didn’t bite it off.”

That drew more cheers and smiles, and it was apparent that the game meant as much to players from a mental point of view as it did from their physical performance.

“The mental part is the best,” said junior Maddie Rosenblum, who scored both South goals. “Just seeing the girls, hanging out with my teammates and getting to play – it’s just amazing. I can’t begin to tell you what this means to me and all our girls.”

Geren, who plans to play soccer at Southwest Baptist University in the fall, agreed.

“This is so important for all of us, especially our girls who graduated and would have never had the chance to play one more game with our teammates,” Geren said. “At least I get to go on and play in college – if they have soccer this fall.”

South goalie Abby Cooper made several point-blank and acrobatic stops and said the game was special, even though the Jaguars lost.

“I wish we would have won, but we all had so much fun, and this will give me the chance to know what I need to work on for next season,” said Cooper, a junior.

No one enjoyed the atmosphere more than Findley, who maintained a lively conversation with his team throughout the game.

“The girls needed this – we all needed this,” Findley said. “North is a very solid, well-coached team, and we haven’t been together since the second week in March, so I’m happy with the way our girls performed.

“You could tell how much the girls enjoyed it by their smiles. Everyone was smiling today.”

Liberty North coach Steve Person was also thrilled with the chance to play, as Riese Yates, Maya Jones, Ekterina Theoharidis and Lauren Hinnenkamp all scored and Karli Angle starred in the net.

“Like everyone else, we lost our season and we were all excited about getting to play over here,” Person said. “It was a competitive game and gave the girls some closure after what happened this spring.”

In the second game of Thursday afternoon, the Jaguars lost 2-0 to Grain Valley. All-state midfielder Raena Childers scored one of Grain Valley’s goals.

“We played better than we did this morning, but with no practices we’re just missing connections,” Findley said.