Having never reached the state semifinals before, the Winfield girls soccer team is one step away from its first championship. The only thing standing in their way: defending champion Topeka Hayden.
Winfield secured the spot opposite Hayden in the 4-1A championship game with a late goal to beat DeSoto 1-0 at Hummer Sports Complex. Hayden and Winfield will meet at 2 p.m. Saturday.
“Pinch me. Is it real?” said Winfield coach Don Birney, who has guided his Vikings to a 16-3 mark. “I’m just along for the ride. These ladies are wonderful to work with.
“In the back of my mind I might have thought (we could reach this point). We always believed, and sometimes it just works out.”
The Vikings wore out the turf in front of the DeSoto goal, coming tantalizingly close to several scores, but for the first 60 minutes came up empty.
But the Vikings finally scored when junior Karrie McNutt broke the scoreless tie with 19:27 left. McNutt dribbled into the teeth of the DeSoto defense, slashing to the right. She shot to the left of the goal, crossing up goalie Taylor Peterson, who couldn’t recover in time.
Birney admitted it seemed like his team might never capitalize on their many opportunities.
“I lost count of how many times (we came close to scoring),” said Birney. “Maybe it was nerves, but it’s all new to us. We’ll learn from it.”
In the final game, Winfield takes on Hayden, a team accustomed to playing for championships.
“I know a lot about them from talking with other coaches, but this is the first time I’ve seen them,” said Birney, who watched Hayden in the earlier contest. “They are pretty tough. But we didn’t come here to sit and watch. We’re going to do what we need to do to stay with them.”
McNutt was the hero in the Vikings’ come-from-behind win against McPherson in the quarterfinals Tuesday.
“This is so exciting. Words can’t describe it,” said McNutt. “I just go lay it all out there. And I have all these wonderful girls to support me.
Second half – Winfield, McNutt (unassisted).