If the words “Lee’s Summit North soccer” ever come up in a word association test there’s a good chance your answer is going to be “Allie Stephenson.”

If the words “Lee’s Summit North soccer” ever come up in a word association test there’s a good chance your answer is going to be “Allie Stephenson.”

The Bronco senior midfielder, who was recently named Missouri’s Gatorade Girls Soccer Player of the Year and has signed to play at Oklahoma State next season, has tallied 29 goals this season while establishing herself as one of the state’s premier athletes in any sport.

But maybe a more appropriate word to think of would be “zero” as in the number of goals second-ranked North has allowed in its last eight matches.

For as dangerous as Stephenson has been in the postseason – she’s scored four of the Broncos’ seven goals – it’s been the Broncos’ team defense that has coach Tim Richardson feeling optimistic going into today’s Class 3 state quarterfinal against Park Hill South. The match is slated to start at 10 a.m. at Park Hill South High School.

“That start’s with goalkeeping,” Richardson said. “Maddie (Dobyns) has made a couple key saves during this playoff stretch. Then we have good defenders as well. We try to defend the right way and protect our goal and kind of help each other with more of a collective type defense.”

Dobyns – a junior – has manned the net, but Richardson noted that she’s received plenty of defensive help from the likes of seniors Courtney Licata and Hannah Johnson and juniors Casey Williamson and Taylor Miller.

The Broncos (22-3) will need to be constantly on their guard Saturday. Richardson said he doesn’t know much about the Panthers (20-4-2), but said it caught his attention that they were twice able to bounce back from one-goal deficits in their 3-2 sectional win over Kearney.

He said it will be key for his team to not take that resiliency lightly.

“We try to identify critical times during the game that goals tend to be scored,” Richardson said. “Early in a game or early in a half and right after goals are when goals are scored frequently. ... We remind our players to be aware of the first five (minutes), last five and right after a goal.”

It doesn’t hurt that the Broncos have plenty of experience playing deep into the postseason. North made it to the quarterfinals the previous two years, and memories of 2009’s state runner-up finish are still fresh for plenty within in the program.

“They kind of expect to go beyond just the first games of district,” Richardson said. “They know that the season has a chance of going all the way to the state championship. That’s what we hope for and work for, but we also know other teams want to make it that far as well. Just because we have in the past doesn’t mean it’s a guaranteed thing so we have to work hard to make it happen.”