If the Goddard girls soccer team was at full strength playing at its highest level, coach Ryan Rooney would have been pleased with not taking a loss in a difficult league stretch that featured Andover Central, Eisenhower, and Maize South.
Given that the Lions were missing at least five starters in all three games, Rooney is ecstatic the Lions emerged with a 2-0-1 record after handing Maize South its first loss of the season in a 2-1 victory on Tuesday.
“It was definitely the best win of our season,” Rooney said. “I think as far as a total game goes, that was the best 80 minutes we have played all season. We’ve had stretches where we’ve looked brilliant, but that was the best job we’ve done at sustaining it for an entire game.”
Now Goddard is in prime position to win what is surely one of the most competitive leagues top-to-bottom in the state in Division II of the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League. Andover (2-0), Maize South (1-1), Valley Center (1-1), and Eisenhower (1-1-1) all remain viable threats.
But it is Goddard (7-3-2) that sits in the best position, already having played two of the top threats in the league and leaving unscathed. The Lions are also expected to return at least three starters in the next week, which sets up well for them with key games remaining at Andover on May 8 and at home against Valley Center on May 15.
The Lions will play at Arkansas City on Thursday.
“I would have been ecstatic if we would have been full strength,” Rooney said. “So to be able to get that win with all those missing parts, that’s huge for us. I’m very pleased with where we’re at right now.”
That’s because the Eagles will host Kapaun Mount Carmel on Thursday evening, and then turn right back around and play host to four-time defending state champion St. Thomas Aquinas on Friday.
“It’s almost like a state tournament,” Carroll coach Greg Rauch said. “This is an extremely difficult ask from our players to play two very high-caliber teams in a 24-hour window. But I think it’s to our benefit, win, lose or draw. We’re going to get a feel of what’s working and what’s not.”
Carroll’s undefeated start hasn’t been a surprise to Rauch. The Eagles have six juniors that started as freshmen and have matured into a dominant force that has Carroll on the brink of another City League championship.
A victory over Kapaun would all but clinch at least a share of the league title with two games remaining.
“Certainly coming in we knew we had a talented group,” Rauch said. “There’s a lot of chemistry there with all those girls coming back and they’ve meshed well with the younger one. I think the expectations have rightfully been through the roof for us.”
In the old setup, there were regions with two containing 12 teams and a third containing eight. Essentially that eight-team pod has been assigned to one or the other region, forming two 16-team regionals that will offer a more traditional playoff format this postseason.
“With the old system, it was a lot of guesswork,” Derby coach Robert Rhodes said. “Now it takes a lot of the guess work out. You know where everybody is and who is playing who. I like it.”
The concern, at least in 6A, is for Wichita-area teams being forced to play northern teams such as Lawrence Free State, Manhattan, Topeka, and Washburn Rural earlier in the postseason.
That’s why every result, like Derby’s 3-2 victory over Newton on Tuesday, will be crucial for seeding. The Panthers sit at 7-3-1, secure in third place but just two games out of dropping all the way to ninth.
Derby will play Wichita South at home on Friday.
“Every win is so big at this point,” Rhodes said. “It’s a total log jam right now. So right now every team is scrapping to get one in the win column.”