TOPEKA – Bishop Carroll’s defense kept St. Thomas Aquinas from finishing opportunities with its usual proficiency, but one second chance was all Aquinas needed to continue their run for a sixth straight state championship.
In the 16th minute, Jami Reichenberger turned away a shot from Jamie Kutey, only to watch Addison Denning knock in the rebound for the only goal in Carroll's 1-0 Class 5A semifinal loss Friday.
“It’s terrible,” said Carroll coach Greg Rauch, “because the keeper makes the first save, but it’s the trailing player that’s going to give us problems. St. Thomas just steps to the ball so quickly that you don’t get the opportunity to make a leisurely clearance.”
Denning’s score sets Aquinas up for a championship game Saturday against Blue Valley Southwest. The Saints haven’t lost a state title since Class 5A was separated into its own postseason bracket in 2011.
Aquinas was on the attack for most of the game, and didn’t allow a shot on goal until the last 10 minutes, but the Golden Eagles’ final push threatened to send the semifinal into overtime.
Goalie Alia Calvert came off her line with 6:40 remaining to punch the ball away from Hanleigh Allen in the penalty box. A minute later, Emily Woods headed a corner kick past Calvert, but defender Molly Schmidt was waiting in the frame of the goal and cleared the shot to preserve the shutout.
“They had kind of a flurry at the end,” said Aquinas coach Craig Ewing. “I thought Alia Calvert had a tremendous punch out to save it from going to a tie.”
Reichenberger also played well in goal, preventing all eight of Aquinas’ corner kicks from finding the back of the net, but the Saints’ one break was enough to send the Golden Eagles to the consolation game.
“I don’t know what’ll end up happening (Saturday),” Rauch said. “But this generally ends up happening where we give (Aquinas) their best game in the semifinal, then they end up getting another ring. They’re super talented. There’s no doubt about that.”
BV Southwest 2, Maize South 0 – The Timberwolves’ biggest advantage is their height, and it showed on both of their goals against the Mavericks.
Blue Valley Southwest scored on a pair of first-half headers to set up a rematch with Aquinas, a team the Timberwolves beat 2-1 in the regular season.
In the fourth minute, a long throw-in took several deflections before being headed in by Rilynne Like.
With 6:56 left in the half, Southwest scored on another set piece – this time a corner kick – when Lauren Lambrecht put in ball that bounced off at least a couple other players.
“We’re big, so we know what our strengths are,” said BV Southwest coach Jason Pendleton. “It’s long throws, free kicks, corner kicks, and we try to take advantage of our size in the box.”
BV Southwest tried repeatedly for more goals off of headers, and Maize South goalie Caroline Howard stayed active throughout the game to keep it a two-goal margin.
Maize South had few scoring chances, but one of the best came after a failed clearance in the first half. The ball bounced back to forward Gabrielle Crowell, but the chance ended in a goal kick.
Aquinas 1, Carroll 0
First half – Aquinas, Denning.
BV Southwest 2, M. South 0
First half – BVSW, Like, Lambrecht.