Maize coach Jay Holmes’ halftime message to his girls soccer team Tuesday emphasized the importance of the first seven minutes of the second half against Derby.
And while Derby scored a tying goal during that stretch of the Class 6A quarterfinal, the closing minutes have proved to be more crucial when the two teams battle.
Like a regular-season game two weeks ago, Maize was better down the stretch. Sophomore Katie McClure and senior Hadley Davis scored in the final 16 minutes as the Eagles pulled away from Derby 3-1 to advance to the 6A tournament semifinals Friday in Topeka.
Maize (18-1), which rallied to defeat Derby 3-2 in overtime on May 13, got another formidable challenge from the Panthers, who finished 13-5-1. But the Eagles never trailed in the rematch, as junior Addison Kingrey sent a shot past Derby goalkeeper Elizabeth DeCristoforo in the game’s fourth minute.
“We just really wanted to focus on getting the ball wide and getting services in the box,” Holmes said. “They like to pack it in. They put seven or eight in the box and they’re just playing to counterattack with their two fast forwards on top.”
For most of the game, Maize smothered Derby’s offensive surges. The Eagles led 1-0 at the break, stopping Derby’s best scoring chance late in the first half when Maize goalkeeper Saige Baalman snagged Aubreigh Miller’s shot.
Derby played the final 18 minutes of the first half without freshman forward Jordan Eickelman. Eickelman, a speedy scoring threat, injured her ankle in a collision with a Maize defender.
“She’s our energy, and gosh, I don’t even know how she was walking after that,” Derby coach Robert Rhodes said. “I think she got hit with cleats on the ankle.
“But she’s a warrior. They taped it, and it was one of those things where she wasn’t going to hurt it any worse.”
Eickelman returned to start the second half. Six minutes in, she broke free from a Maize defender and chipped a shot over Baalman in front of the net to tie the score.
But Maize didn’t stray from its offensive game plan. The Eagles took the lead with 15:34 remaining when Davis sent a pass into the middle for McClure, who redirected into the upper right corner of the net to give Maize a 2-1 lead.
Davis added a goal on a penalty kick with 5:07 remaining. And when Eickelman came up empty on a penalty shot a couple minutes later, Derby’s fate was sealed.
“We’ll just keep trying to close that gap on Maize,” Rhodes said. “Hopefully, if we ever get the monkey off our backs, the pendulum will just swing the other way.”