Blue Springs put a bit of a scare into crosstown rival Blue Springs South, the No. 2 seed, in the Class 4 District 13 semifinals.
The Wildcats, the No. 3 seed, had lost to the Jaguars twice during the regular season by three goals or more. They changed the game plan and their shape. It worked to near perfection for the first 60 minutes as they held the Jaguars scoreless. However, South broke through with three goals in the in the final 20 minutes for a 3-0 victory Tuesday at Lee’s Summit North.
The Jaguars (15-7) advance to play Lee’s Summit North (18-3), who defeated Fort Osage 7-0 in the other semifinal, in the championship game at 6 p.m. Thursday.
South held a 22-4 advantage in shots (12-2 on goal), but couldn’t convert for most of the game because of Blue Springs having at least seven players in the back for the majority of the time. It also helped the Wildcats’ cause that goalkeeper Desiree Barajas saved a point-blank shot by South’s Katelyn Poertner, a rocket off the foot of Nina Stine and a breakaway opportunity from Mallory Kroencke.
“Last time we played them they beat our fullbacks, so we changed our shape and lineup,” said Blue Springs coach Doug McLagan, whose team ended its season at 4-15. “We played really well for 60 minutes, but there is no question they are the better team.
“They used all their players, so we took them to the limit. The game changed when our backs got fatigued. When you mark Stine and Kroencke, you are chasing and running after them for 60 minutes. We just ran out of gas.”
South coach Todd Findley admitted he started to get nervous when his team didn’t have a goal by the time the 60th minute rolled around.
“Blue Springs battled for 60 minutes,” Findley said. “They had a great game plan and a huge wind at their back. You have to give credit to them, they made it hard on us.
“I still think we played good defense. We didn’t give up a whole lot of chances. When the wind was at our back in the second half, we started to settle down and play better soccer.”
Barajas had 10 saves and made some huge saves early in the second half. However, once the game reached the 60th minute, South applied the pressure on the Blue Springs defense with some counterattacks on the Wildcats’ third of the field.
The Jaguars finally scored when Kroencke faked like she was dribbling the ball away from the goal, came back toward the goal and fed a pass to junior Kaylee Connors, who hit the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
“I don’t know what I did there,” Kroncke said of her deceptive move. “I saw Kaylee there so I know I had to do something to get it to her.”
That shot opened the floodgates for the Jaguars as Kroencke fed a short cross to Connors, who drilled a 20-foot shot from the right side of the penalty box that went under the crossbar and into the back of the net for 2-0 edge in the 62nd minute.
Connors, who is described as a “worker-bee type player” by Findley, scored a rare goal from long distance.
“The wind helped a little bit,” Connors said of her second goal. “Both of those goals were all Mallory. She worked her butt off the get me the ball, and I was just at the right place at the right time.”
Added Findley: “That’s not her game. She’s usually a worker bee, a ball possessor, a passer and a great defender. I think it was wind-aided and she will be the first to admit that to you. It was good to see her score a couple of goals.”
Kroencke later picked up her third assist when she sent a backward pass to Stine, who drilled a bouncing ball inside the left post from the right wing to seal it for the Jags.
South has a tough task with No. 3 state-ranked Lee’s Summit North tomorrow as the Broncos defeated the Jaguars twice in the regular season. North only had one loss to a Suburban Big Seven team all season.
“It’s time for us to flip the script,” Connors said. “”We were in the same position last year. We beat them twice in the regular season then they got us in the district championship. It’s our year. It’s our turn.”
LEE’S SUMMIT NORTH 7, FORT OSAGE 0: North coach Ryan Kelley said Fort Osage made it tough for the Broncos to score in the first half because of the Indians’ commitment to the defensive end of the field.
The Broncos only scored two goals in the first half, but came back to score five in the second for a blowout win against Fort in the other semifinal.
“We came out a little more focused in the second half,” North forward Alexis Mitchell said. “We started to actually finish in the second half.”
A big strength of North this season is having multiple players who can score. The Broncos displayed that ability Tuesday as four different players scored.
Kaylie Rock and Alexis Mitchell scored two goals each to pace the Broncos; and Jordan Jennings, Gianna Palmentere and Kelly Adams scored one goal each. Madelyn Robinson pitched in with two assists; Rock also had two and Palmentere and Keelie Fothergill had one.
“Keelie didn’t have a goal today but she’s always capable,” Kelley said. “It’s a nice thing to have so many players that can finish and can score. I think Alexis leads the team in goals but we have a few players that are right behind her.”
Fort Osage’s loss marked the end of head coach Andrew Fletcher’s 10-year tenure with the team as he will move on to be a recreational league coordinator in Kansas.
“We knew this would be a difficult game,” said Fletcher, whose team ended its season at 14-6. “It’s been a really fun 10 years. I was just glad we played hard tonight.”