There was a time, just one month ago, when the Kapaun Mount Carmel girls soccer team felt it was anything but that — a team.
Forwards were making risky runs, the midfield was not a place where the team was connecting passes, and the players admitted that a selfishness had overtaken them.
Those qualities have vanished and been replaced by the teamwork recognizable of past great Kapaun teams. This year’s Crusaders will now count among them, after they defeated Maize South thoroughly in a 2-0 win on the road on Tuesday evening.
It will be the 15th time — and first time since 2010 — Kapaun will be playing in the final four of Class 5A.
“The best version of this team is when we play together as a team,” said senior forward Taryn Kruse.
Courtney Boswell, another senior, added: “When we play as a team, we feel like we’re the best team. We have the chemistry, so all we have to do is play together.”
The players weren’t sure what led to their season derailing in a 1-0 loss to Heights on April 24. There was no shame in losing to a quality team like Heights, but it was the manner that the Crusaders lost in that made it disappointing.
“I think the girls realized after that if we don’t play as a team, then we can be beaten very easily,” Kapaun coach Alan Shepherd said.
On Tuesday, Kapaun presented a team that wasn’t at its sharpest but most certainly was playing in harmony.
It took less than 10 minutes for the Crusaders to strike, as Grace Hagan connected with Kruse in the box. Kruse had space to take a touch and her shot deflected off a defender’s leg and into the goal.
“We’ve lost in this game the last three years, so this was really important to us seniors,” Kruse said. “Scoring that goal was such a huge adrenaline rush.”
Kapaun continued its onslaught, forcing Maize South to shift its top goal-scorer Madison Adams back into a defensive midfielder role in an attempt to slow the attack.
Kruse tacked on an insurance goal in the second half, on another assist from Hagan, and the Mavericks were unable to put a shot on frame in the game against a Kapaun back line anchored by Boswell.
While its season ends, Maize South will return 10 of 11 starters from a 14-win team.
“We’re all super excited for next season,” keeper Caroline Howard said. “We can’t wait because we’re going to have a really good team next year with so many coming back.”
Carroll (17-2) will play Blue Valley Southwest (12-5-2) at the Class 5A tournament in Emporia on Friday, while Kapaun (15-4) will take on St. Thomas Aquinas (18-1).
Eisenhower proved itself worthy in playing an even game with Carroll, finding an equalizer in the second half on a goal from Jaclyn Means.
But after pelting the goal with 30 shots, two finally found the back of the net in the second half to send Trinity to its third state tournament appearance in the last five seasons on goals from Madison Clinton and Ally Henderson.
“The whole game was frustrating,” Trinity coach Tom Nykamp said. “When teams play you like that, it’s hard to break them down. But I was happy with the girls. They played good enough to win the game and advance.”
Trinity (15-3-1) will play Bishop Miege (12-6-1) at the Class 4-1A tournament in Kansas City on Friday.
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