The best player on the field watched the final 60 minutes of Tuesday’s Class 5A quarterfinals match between Maize and Newton from the bench.
Newton’s Brookelynn Entz had pulled a jacket over her legs for warmth on this surprisingly chilly May evening. Her eyes were red, welled up as she watched the final moments of her high school career come to a close. Her ankle was throbbing after it had taken one more blow than she could withstand.
Newton coach Scott Jantzi liked to joke anything was possible when having Entz on your team, but on Tuesday, with the Kansas State signee forced from the game, Newton felt helpless as it watched Maize celebrate a 3-0 victory at Fischer Field and its 10th straight appearance in the state’s final four.
It was a sobering conclusion to a phenomenal career of Entz, who finished her senior campaign with a career-high 40 goals.
“The girl has more spirit than anyone I’ve ever coached,” Jantzi said. “It was tough seeing her like that. She’s a battler and she wanted more than anything to be out there.”
Maize once again altered its defense to account for Entz in the team’s second meeting in the three weeks and once again coach Jay Holmes decided to mark Entz with junior Bailey Stedman.
The game-altering play happened in the 20th minute when Entz received a pass with her back to the defense and Stedman executed a slide tackle, a play left Entz pounding the turf in pain. She limped off the field, and briefly returned before Jantzi decided to pull her from the game for good.
“Her future coach (K-State’s Mike Dibbini) is sitting up there in the stands, so I didn’t want to do anything to hurt her any more,” Jantzi said. “I had to think about her future. She was hurting bad and there’s no way she could have gone on.”
The game drastically changed after Entz’s exit.
Just four minutes later, Maize took the lead when defender Ashlyn Lakin finished a corner kick in the box. While Newton gave a valiant effort, Maize’s skill on the ball eventually overhwhelmed the Railers. Makayla Toth and Elizabeth Palmer added goals in the second half for Maize.
“When you’re playing against such a fantastic player like Brooke, then you have to make adjustments to your game plan when she’s in the game,” Holmes said. “When she went out, we were able to go back to what we normally do and I thought we were more effective.”
Maize (15-3) felt like this was one of the most fulfilling trips to state in the decade-long streak after the team suffered three early-season losses.
“In the beginning we were really down and we didn’t even think we were going to make it to state,” Stedman said. “But now we’ve really come together and it’s been awesome to see how much better we’re playing now.”
“We had such a talented group last year,” Holmes said, “so for this team to come back with several new players that had to learn new positions and a new formation and for them to accept their roles, then it just makes it that much more sweeter for the coaches. This was probably the most special team to watch grow up if you want to know the truth.”
First half: 1. Maize, Lakin (Hutson). Second half: 2. Maize, Toth; 3. Maize, Palmer (Eskridge). Shots: Maize 10, Newton 4. Saves: Maize, Hardin 4; Newton, Akers 7.