Carroll soccer looks impressive against tough Maize team
Maguire Sullivan unleashed a laser from outside the box that pinged down off the crossbar, and her counterpart was there on cue.
Hanleigh Allen slashed through the box. She leaped and got her foot to the ball for a goal that proved decisive in a game between two of Wichita's best. Carroll beat Maize 4-1 on Friday, and the Eagles seniors — like they have been all season — were golden.
Sullivan and Allen have achieved almost everything in their Carroll careers. Both have earned All-City League, All-Metro and All-State honors. They have won the City League twice and qualified for the Class 5A tournament twice with No. 1 seeds both times.
They are both heading to Division-I soccer. Sullivan has signed with Kansas State, and Allen is committed to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
But they are missing a state championship.
The Kansas high school soccer scene is incredibly murky this season. Teams have beaten up on one another from Carroll to Kapaun, Maize and even Aquinas. It has gotten hard to decipher the good teams from great ones.
Carroll was great Friday against a team that came in with only one loss this season, and if the Eagles can channel that energy, they have potential to make history.
The Wichita area has one girls soccer state championship at any level in 25 years of competition. Kansas City schools have dominated the landscape and often left Wichita schools to the third-place games. Just last season, Maize beat Carroll 2-1 in the 5A third-place game.
With two of the best players in the state having one last run and a supporting cast around them that can compete with the best in Kansas, Sullivan said this Carroll team is dangerous.
"We take the team on our back at times, but usually the team has a pretty good idea on how to get it done," she said.
Coach Greg Rauch said he still remembers the first time he saw Sullivan play. He was at a varsity soccer camp, and the upperclassmen came to him wide-eyed.
"Coach, she's special," they told him.
They didn't need to tell him. He could see for himself. She received a Division-I offer as a freshman and has played all over the field for the Eagles. She played most of her career on defense but moved to midfield this season and has been game-changing there, too.
"It's not just me being biased," Rauch said. "You put her anywhere on the field and she's probably the most skilled player in that position."
But she doesn't act like she is any good, Rauch said. That always stood out. She asks how she can help out at practice. She sets up cones and picks up water bottles.
"You couldn't ask for your senior captain stud to be any better than that," Rauch said.
Like for any team, health will be key.
Allen took a serious knock to her lower leg Friday during a jaw-dropping goal. She gathered the ball just outside the 6-yard box and chipped Maize goalkeeper Riley Quiggle from a poor angle.
The ball went in, but Allen stayed on the ground after colliding with Quiggle. She screamed in pain and had to be carted off.
It was Allen's second goal, and it was the final of the match, coming with five minutes to play. With the game out of hand, Allen could have been on the bench to see out the win, but that play embodied her competitiveness, Rauch said.
"I would never ask Hanleigh, 'Hey, don't get hurt out there,' " Rauch said.
Although the injury appeared to be serious, potentially costing Allen the rest of her senior season, she confirmed via Twitter she broke no bones. Allen suffered a deep bone bruise on her tibia and fibula.
She said she will be out 2-3 days, and doctors said her return is mostly up to her.
Allen missed the first four games of the season with a broken foot, and since she returned against Heights on April 3, she has been electric. Allen was averaging 5.1 points per game coming into Friday and only helped herself with a brace and an assist.
After the game, Rauch told his team that whether Allen returned or not, everyone needed to help pick up the slack. Allen won't be out long, but if she was, Carroll likely would have been fine, Sullivan said.
"We have nine little, fierce freshmen," she said. "They're pretty salty players, and they come out here and work every day. We all do. We bring such a passion for the game.
"I think it's ours this year."
Khloe Schuckman has headlined that freshman class. She has caught fire on the pitch recently with goals against Kapaun, Manhattan and a wonder strike against Maize.
Schuckman opened the scoring 10 minutes in. She settled on the ball well outside the 18-yard box only about 10 yards above the end line. Instead of crossing it, she piped it into the far corner of the net.
Schuckman is second on the this team with eight goals and, after a pair of assists Friday, has three in her first season of high school soccer.
She was one of the key contributing pieces to Carroll's state runner-up finish on the basketball court, so with the season going long, Rauch said he hadn't seen her play but knew she was going to be special.
He watched her play against South, one of the state's best, and she wasn't rattled. She wasn't fazed either Friday against Maize.
"Basketball helped a lot just settling my nerves," she said. "Going into a varsity game, it's not too bad for me."
Rauch said Schuckman's pace makes her a threat at any moment. The Eagles know they can send it in deep, and there is always a chance for the freshman to track it down.
Having Allen still in the mix atop the Carroll forwards is important to keep players like Schuckman, Taryn Lubbers and Lauren Brooks in their natural positions, Rauch said. Because although they proved Friday they can certainly rely on other players besides Allen and Sullivan, the Eagles are at their best only with the full lineup.
Carroll had hit a spell of poor form before the Maize rematch. Losses to Washburn Rural (2-0) and Kapaun (2-1) had given pause to a team that started the season with only one loss and two goals allowed in nine games.
Losing half of the Eagles' dynamic pair would have been a thorn in the side of an otherwise nearly flawless night. Schuckman said Friday was easily their best game of the season — a performance to build on heading into what could be a City League decider against East on Thursday.
"They've shown when you get a ball at their feet, they can compete with anybody," Rauch said.