This wasn’t about payback for the Maize girls soccer team.
Earlier this season the Eagles had their 5-year winning streak against Wichita-area competition end when they lost to Northwest in the opening round of the Titan Classic.
But the rematch on Friday afternoon in Maize was much more than just payback. It was about maintaining tradition and ensuring this season’s team would not let another streak end: Maize’s run of No. 1 seeds in the South Central regional.
Maize took a step toward securing the top seed with its 5-1 thrashing of Northwest, improving to 11-1 overall and handing Northwest (10-2) its second loss.
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“It feels great because Northwest is our biggest rival, but this game was about seeding,” Maize junior striker Katie McClure said. “All these years we’ve been seeded No. 1, so we didn’t want to go in and break up that tradition.”
In the 3-0 loss to the Grizzlies in March, Maize looked like a dysfunctional team. It was a wake-up call to players and to coach Jay Holmes, who immediately switched up his lineup and took junior Tanna Benefiel out of the back line and moved her to a holding midfielder position.
Benefiel is now allowed to have a larger imprint on games with her creativity out of the back.
On Friday, Benefiel’s impact was felt when she assisted on a Makayla Toth goal midway through the first half for a 2-0 lead for Maize. Three of Maize’s five goals were assisted by a defensive player (Benefiel, Kelsey Quick, and Bailey Dreher).
Aspen Loe and Addison Kingrey also provided excellent service on Friday, as Maize overwhelmed Northwest’s back line with an array of balls down the flanks and over-the-top of the defense.
“I think the biggest difference from last game is we have players where they need to be now,” Holmes said. “When we have great service out of the back like we did today and they can play that ball in early when (the defense) is flat across the back, with our speed, we’re going to be able to get behind them.”
It exposed a flaw that Northwest coach Bobby Bribiesca vowed to correct after the game. Although the Grizzlies did pull within a goal when Katie Cramer and Paige Achey connected on a goal near the end of the first half, they were out-possessed and out-played in the second half.
McClure and Toth each had two goals, as Ashley Zane had the other.
“I wouldn’t mind playing them every week,” Bribiesca said of Maize. “Win or lose, I can always take something away from playing a great team like that. I’ve just got to get my team to defend better. We gave up three goals within seven yards of the goal line … that’s a mortal sin.”
The game kicked off a crucial stretch for Northwest, which outscored opponents 75-5 in its first 10 games. The Grizzlies will play Manhattan, Washburn Rural, and Bishop Carroll — teams with a combined 25-4-2 record — in the next three games.
“We’ve had some easy games and we’ve had a lot of goals scored because of our schedule,” Bribiesca said. “Today Maize showed us how to play against a good team. I think we’ll be better prepared after this.”
First half—Maize, McClure (Swanson); Maize, Toth (Benefiel); Northwest, Cramer (Achey). Second half—Maize, McClure (Quick); Maize, Zane (Swanson); Maize, Toth (Dreher). Shots—Northwest 8-4—12; Maize 8-7—15. Saves—Northwest, Evans 5-3—8; Maize, Baalman 5-3—8.