When Northwest's girls soccer team lost 5-1 to Emporia on Monday, it represented a turning point for the Grizzlies. The less-difficult portion of the schedule is over and only strong opponents remain.
Northwest rebounded to tie Bishop Carroll 1-1 the next day, helping it stay atop the City League standings. The Grizzlies are 4-0-1 in the league and Kapaun, which owns a 4-0 tournament win over Northwest, is 4-0.
"They're all difficult games, and I think it's going to get us over the hump," coach Bobby Bribiesca said. "It has to. We'll take them one at a time."
Northwest has games remaining against CL contenders East and Kapaun, and with state powers Maize, Manhattan and Washburn Rural.
Most of the Grizzlies' schedule has been tough — they're 5-4-1 with losses to Emporia, Lawrence, Salina Central and Kansas City (Mo.) Notre Dame de Sion, which boasts a standout soccer program.
Northwest got a break from stiff competition when it began City League play, though. The Grizzlies outscored Southeast, West and South 23-0 and earned a 2-1 win over Heights before tying Carroll.
"We're getting better with every game," Bribiesca said.
Northwest's leader is senior goalkeeper Kaisha McCaffrey. She has kept Northwest close in several games in which the offense struggled and helped preserve wins. She has stepped in admirably for Amanda Shook, who was an All-Metro selection as a senior last year.
"She leads the game well and she communicates well to our back (defenders)," Bribiesca said. "She's a communicator, you hear her all over the field."
On offense, Northwest is led by forward Kelsey Tracy and Jackie Craft, both seniors who work well together to provide punch.
In the mix — The only team in the latest coaches association Southwest region rankings not from the Wichita area is Salina Central. The Mustangs, ranked No. 2 behind Kapaun, join Andover Central, Carroll and Buhler in the top five in Class 5A.
Salina Central is 9-1 and has allowed one goal, which came during a loss to Kapaun in the Titan Classic semifinals. The Mustangs, who have one senior, own a 1-0 victory over Maize. They have five 1-0 victories.