After the shock of discovering Katie Hartman’s foot was broken, the questions began to form for the Derby girls soccer team.
Hartman had been the soul of Derby soccer for the past four seasons, the creative maestro in the midfield that played with an edge that Derby relied on when its offense became stale.
“There’s no one else that is like Katie,” junior Jordan Eickelman said. “That’s why she’s special. No one can do what she did.”
While it may be surprising to others that Derby still found a way to reach the quarterfinals of Class 6A for the third straight year, it is not to the team. They understood no one player could replace Hartman, but the team could still thrive if all 11 players collectively elevated their play.
Derby (15-3) will host Manhattan (14-4) on Tuesday.
“After the initial shock kind of wore off, we thought we still could be OK,” Rhodes said. “Obviously you would love to have a player like Katie out there, but we knew we still had one of the top strikers in the area, if not the state. And we knew we still had a solid defense. Those are two things we could lean on.”
Indeed, Eickelman has shed double teams and other special defenses to score 24 of her 32 goals in the 10 games since Hartman’s injury. In fact, in the two games immediatelly following, Eickelman scored nine goals.
It would be easy to conclude from those statistics that Eickelman’s play has carried Derby, but that would ignore the quality around her.
Riley Spainhour has excelled all season as the target forward, Sadie Phillips has filled Hartman’s spot and scored seven goals in 10 starts, and a pair of freshmen, Marah Franke and Hailey Vinroe, have given Derby a presence on the flanks.
“It’s kind of like in baseball where you have a power hitter,” Rhodes said. “You want to put someone behind them that will scare teams. We feel like we’ve developed some other girls now where teams have to be scared of them, too.”
As Rhodes expected, Derby’s defense has also been an asset. Jordan Russell and Samantha Simmons have started at centerback together for four years, while Kaitlyn Fox has been with them the last three. They make up a back line that has kept opponents scoreless 10 times this season.
“We kind of knew the pressure was going to be on us after Katie went down,” Simmons said. “But we were ready for it. We’ve played so long together, we all know where we’re going to be and what we’re going to do. We just work well together.”
Derby is one win away from fulfilling its ultimate preseason goal, despite the unforeseen detour.
“I feel like everyone has had to work that much harder,” Eickelman said. “We’ve all worked a lot harder than we did in the past to make up for missing Katie. I feel like we should win this for her now. That’s our motivation.”
Maize South (12-6) at Maize (17-0) – No match has more anticipation than this one, as Maize and Maize South will play for the first time with a trip to the Class 5A final four at stake.
Maize features the top offense in Kansas with 137 goals, 8.1 per game. Makayla Toth (48 goals, 14 assists) and Katie McClure (46 goals, 19 assists) are the top two in the state in points and goals this season, as well.
Maize South defeated Eisenhower 2-0 Thursday for its third regional championship in program history. The Mavericks reached the 5A semifinals for the first time last season, while Maize has qualified for state the last 12 seasons.
Kapaun (14-4) at Newton (15-3) – Kapaun has been to the state tournament more times than not in the last decade, while this will be Newton’s first appearance in the quarterfinals during that time.
The Crusaders, the undefeated City League champions, had to become the first team to score on Valley Center in 16 games last Thursday to advance to this game via a 1-0 victory.
Newton is powered by junior midfielder Brookelynn Entz, who has scored in 15 of the 17 games she’s played in and has 34 goals.
Topeka Hayden (10-8) at McPherson (14-2-1) – McPherson returned plenty from its state championship run last season, including sophomore striker Aislinn Hughes (23 goals), but Class 4-1A power Hayden stands in its way.
Since 4-1A became a division in 2011, Hayden has played for the championship in all five seasons and won three times, including last season.
Hays (11-6) at Trinity Academy (13-3) – Trinity is playing in the quarterfinals for the seventh straight season, with two wins in that span. Each time the Knights did win, however, they advanced to the state final, winning in 2014.
Trinity is likely to be without freshman Maycee Bell, recently named the Kansas player of the year by Gatorade, for the rest of the season. Bell (27 goals in 11 games) was selected to play for the U.S. Under-17 women’s national team that will play in Italy and Switzerland from May 23 to June 3.