The confidence started in the first game, when the South girls soccer team took Derby into overtime.
It swelled when South won a bracket in the Titan Classic for the first time in a decade. It’s peaking after the Titans beat Northwest 3-1 on Tuesday, the first time South beat its City League rival since 1998.
South (9-7-1) will play at Washburn Rural (15-2) in a Class 6A regional championship game on Thursday. After years of early exits, South feels like, with a young core, it is building a competitive program.
“It feels like a dream come true, honestly,” junior defender Kayla Beaver said. “Since I came to South, I knew I wanted to change the way people look at the South soccer program. For it actually becoming true, and with one more year left, I’m just so happy.”
Even though South has no recent success to draw from, coach Chelsea Breen noticed this group made their own confidence. They believed in themselves when the perception was South didn’t have the program to have a winning season.
The players have an edge, Breen says, and it’s that change in attitude that has allowed South to secure its first winning season in Breen’s five-year run.
After South beat Northwest, a team it lost to 4-1 during City League play, the players didn’t view it as an upset. They celebrated, sure, but they believed they were capable.
“They’ve worked so hard for this, I’m just so proud of this team,” Breen said. “The girls respect what other teams bring, but they have a confidence in themselves that they can get the job done. It’s just nice to see hard work pay off like this.”
South has thrived with a balanced scoring attack this season: Maria Stephens (10 goals, 7 assists), Samantha Vaughn (10 goals, 5 assists), Kaitlyn Morrison (11 goals, 3 assists), Melonie Baca (7 goals, 10 assists), and Beaver (7 goals, 5 assists). All are underclassmen.
“There’s a lot of excitement right now,” Beaver said. “We kept telling ourselves, ‘Why now now?’ Why can’t we be the ones to win?”
North finds the right mix – It’s taken a lot of moving parts and a lot of tinkering on Curt Wullschleger’s part, but North has found the right lineup to make it a threat in the Class 6A playoffs.
The Redskins (11-6) won 3-2 in overtime against East on Tuesday and will play at Derby (14-3) on Thursday for a regional championship.
“I have seven seniors that has been building this thing for the last three years,” Wullschleger said. “And then you add a group of seven freshmen, our fearless freshmen, and that’s really injected a lot of confidence and the expectation that they’re going to win every time they take the field.”
Dora Gallo (22 goals, 17 assists), Danisha Brown (11 goals) and Salma Martinez (4 goals) have been mainstays for North, and the additions of Nayeli Gallo (27 goals, 11 assists), Irai Fernandez (14 goals, 16 assists), and Michelle Ramstack (5 goals) have been crucial.
North has piled up the goals (85 on the season) and the wins (11, the most since 2012) to become one of the top offenses in 6A.
“Our offense is definitely our strength, there’s no doubt about that,” Wullschleger said. “There’s no anxiety with these girls when it comes to shooting.”
North has allowed at least three goals in five of its six losses.
To win a regional championship, especially against a battle-tested team like Derby, North will have to bring its best on defense.
“There are games that are bigger than others and obviously this is a huge one for us,” Wullschleger said. “We’re in a position we haven’t been in since 2012 and these girls realize they have an opportunity to play for a plaque on the wall. This is special to them and we’re not taking it for granted. We’ll be ready to go (Thursday).”
Area teams in regional championships
South (9-7-1) at Washburn Rural (15-2), 6 p.m.
North (11-6) at Derby (14-3), 6
Goddard (11-6) at Maize (16-0), 6:30
Maize South (11-6) at Eisenhower (15-1-1), 6
Kapaun (13-4) at Valley Center (13-1-2), 6
Carroll (13-4) at Newton (14-3), 6:30
Augusta (7-7-2) at McPherson (13-2-1), 4
Buhler (5-8-3) at Trinity (12-3), 6:30
Hays (9-6) at Circle (9-5-2), 6
Notes – After the program’s second playoff victory ever, Augusta finds itself back in the regional championship for the first time since 2007. The Orioles lost at McPherson 7-0 on Apr. 21. Augusta is led by senior striker Clarice Dalziel, who has 17 goals.
Going on the road for a regional championship game is a foreign concept for Carroll, which has been to the state semifinals four straight seasons. A defense that has come through with 11 shutouts will be tested by the explosive attack of Newton, as the Eagles are 2-4 this season when they have allowed a goal.
For the first time in program history, Circle will host a regional championship. The Thunderbirds have set a program record for wins (10) under coach Kasey Brown and won just their second playoff game in a shootout victory over Independent.
It has been a record-setting season for Eisenhower, which has the program’s most wins (15), most goals (73), best defense (7 goals allowed), and the single-season scoring leader (Tera Lynch at 24). Thursday will be the first time Eisenhower has hosted a regional championship.
In Jessica Jackson’s first season, Goddard has won 11 games and returned to the regional championship. The Lions have registered a shutout in 11 of their 17 games with the renewed commitment to the defensive end.
Outright City League champion for first time since 2013, Kapaun brings a 9-game winning streak into the playoffs. Since first-year coach Anthony Cantele reconfigured the defensive alignment that sparked the winning streak, the Crusaders have shut out seven of their nine opponents.
No team from the South Central region has beaten Maize in the playoffs since 2004. The Eagles have won their last 11 regional championship games, then gone on to the state semifinals each time.
All six losses for Maize South were by one goal, including a 2-1 loss to Eisenhower on Apr. 28. The Mavericks have won two regional championships and made the state semifinals for the first time last season.
For the first time in over a decade, Newton will be hosting a regional championship. The Railers have lost in this game the last two years, both by 2-1 scorelines and both times allowing both goals in the opening 10 minutes. Newton is led by junior midfielder Brookelynn Entz, who has 33 goals in 16 games this season.
Trinity is searching for its seventh straight regional championship after playing mostly Class 6A and 5A teams this season. The Knights are led by the dynamic duo of Ally Henderson (26 goals, 13 assists) and Maycee Bell (22 goals, 8 assists in 10 games).
Since allowing three goals in the first game and only loss this season, Valley Center has earned 15 straight results thanks to 15 straight shutouts. The Hornets haven’t won a regional title since 2013 when it played for the Class 5A championship.