Although Valley Center entered its regional high school soccer tournament as the top seed, its record reflected a potential deer in headlights.
Then the Hornets played Carroll on Tuesday night.
Valley Center played the Golden Eagles to a 1-1 game through four overtime periods, 110 minutes. The only reason the Hornets lost was because they missed a few more kicks in a penalty shootout. Although the loss ended their season at 16-2-1, coach Steen Danielsen said he was proud of his group's effort.
Even in the face of doubt, they were right there.
"The girls have been talking about (being doubted), I've been talking about it," he said. "It gives them some motivation. We like being in the underdog situation. I straight up told them, 'We might be the 1 seed, but everyone expects Bishop to come out on top of this one.'
"It sucks because you know you could have been there, but at the same time, you play that same team, it's a different result every single time."
Valley Center and Carroll played vastly different regular season schedules.
The Hornets played Maize South to a 3-3 double overtime draw and lost 1-0 to Maize. Outside of those games, Valley Center didn't play any legitimate title-contending teams.
Carroll played Kapaun twice, Maize twice, St. Teresa's Academy (one of the top teams in Missouri), Northwest, East, Washburn Rural and Manhattan. The Golden Eagles went 5-3-1 in those games and picked up a load of injuries along the way, including to top-scorer Hanleigh Allen, who was lost for the season in Carroll's second meeting with Maize.
Injured Carroll or not, Valley Center put up a fight worthy of respect.
After 13 minutes, the Hornets stung first. Right-sided defender Jessica Sharp lobbed a ball over the top of Carroll's back line, and freshman striker Haley Sparks got under it and placed it home. Sparks is one of the most promising players in the Wichita area.
Tuesday's goal was her team-leading 22nd goal this season. Only five other players in the Wichita have more, and just one of them — Derby freshman Brianna Moore - is not a senior.
"We're gritty," Danielsen said. "When Sparks gets older, she's going to be a goal-scoring force."
After scoring early, Valley Center leaned on its stout defense, the unit the Hornets have depended on so heavily this season. Valley Center won a handful of one-goal games this season and allowed the fewest goals (6) of any team in the Wichita area.
That defense ended with freshman goalkeeper Kyrah Klumpp. Klumpp had well over 50 saves this season and was called up numerous times Tuesday to stop Carroll's pacey attack.
"Kyrah is insane," Danielsen said. "She's going to be a stud."
The Hornets are a young, promising team. Although their league was down this season, they still won a share of it and made it to the Class 5A quarterfinals and put up a 110-minute battle against one of the state's bests.
Valley Center will go another year looking for its first girls soccer state championship and its first semifinal appearance since 2013, when it made it to the title game. But besides the grit, youth and talent the Hornets showed and will take with them into the 2019, Danielsen said their chemistry made this season so special.
"There is no doubt in my mind, this is the most fun group in the state to be around and coach," he said.