TOPEKA — At some point, with its consistent talent pool and a coach like Alan Shepherd, the Kapaun Mount Carmel girls soccer team is going to break through and win a state championship.
But it will have to wait for at least another year.
St. Thomas Aquinas defeated Kapaun 2-1 on Saturday at Hummer Sports Park in the Class 5-1A championship game. It's the Saints' 10th state championship.
Kapaun has been to two championship games and 11 of the last 13 semifinals, but has come up empty.
"Today was their day," Shepherd said of Aquinas. "They finished and we couldn't."
With its win, Aquinas continued northeast Kansas' dominance in girls soccer. The Kansas City area has won six straight Class 5-1A titles.
"You saw how good Kapaun was — the gap is close," Aquinas coach Craig Ewing said.
In the two schools' meeting earlier in the season, when Kapaun won 1-0 in overtime, Aquinas never found any kind of continuity on offense. Many times, the Crusaders' defense forced the Saints outside and while Aquinas had more shots than Kapaun, it never capitalized.
Saturday afternoon, the Saints' adjustment was to keep the Crusaders from getting run outs, which gave them more balls in Kapaun's territory.
This strategy paid off as Aquinas had five shots in the first 20 minutes, and if it weren't for a miraculous save by Kapaun goalie Laurel Lujano, where she essentially tackled an open ball in the box, the Saints would have scored within the first few minutes.
"I think they have as much firepower as we do," Shepherd said. "They are technical all over the field and athletic all over the field and have people off the bench who are just as good as their starters. We don't have that."
Aquinas' first goal came with 35:02 remaining, as Ashley Washburn scored off an assist from Sarah Heilman. The Saints had the Crusaders out-numbered and eventually found the open Washburn.
The Saints' second goal came off an excellent pass from Washburn, who hit the ball high for Heilman to kick it in the top of the net.
"They have so much fire power, we thought we needed to keep on scoring," Ewing said. "They have so many talented frontrunners that we couldn't stop being aggressive to the goal."
Kapaun never established a flow offensively, which was frustrating for a team considered to be explosive. The Crusaders managed six shots and never had a great look at the net.
Their goal came from far out on the right side, when Courtney Gahagan lofted the ball high in the net over Maggie Harrison with four minutes to play.
Aquinas put a particular emphasis on Caroline Kastor, who led Kapaun in scoring this season.
"We had so few opportunities and when we had them we didn't click," Kastor said. "We weren't moving the way we normally do. After they scored the second goal, we kind of held our heads and you can't do that when there is time left. We finally got our step back after we scored, but it was too late."
If there is any silver lining for Kapaun, it was that it returns all but three players next season.
"This wasn't frustrating for me personally, but it was frustrating for me because of the seniors," Shepherd said. "But yes, I do think we will win one of these one of these days."
St. Thomas Aquinas (15-4-1) 0 2 — 2 Kapaun Mount Carmel (17-4) 0 1 — 1
Second half — Aquinas, Washburn (Heilman), Heilman (Washburn); Kapaun, Gahagan (unassisted). Shots— Aquinas 7-9—16, Kapaun 2-3—5. Saves— Aquinas, Harrison 2-2—4; Kapaun, Lujano 6-6—12.
T. Hayden 1, Salina Central 0
Salina Central (15-5-1) 0 0 — 0 Topeka Hayden (14-6-1) 0 1 — 1
Second half — Hayden, Trobough.
Maize 3, Garden City 0
Maize (16-3-1) 1 2 — 3 Garden City (16-3-1) 0 0 — 0
First half—Maize, Terry. Second half— Maize, Campbell, Hartzog.
BV West 2, BV Northwest 1
BV West (18-3) 1 1 — 2 BV Northwest (13-6-2) 0 1 — 1
First half—BV West, Catrell. Second half— BV West, Catrell; BV Northwest, Chadick.