Maize lost to Carroll 4-1 less than a month ago.
That fact seems distant after Tuesday. The Eagles beat Kapaun 2-0 to qualify for the Class 5A girls soccer semifinals for the 12th straight season. Maize is peaking at the right time; now it is about finishing a job it never has.
"We know each level, we have to bring it up a level," senior Rachel Marshall said. "We know in the semifinals, we're going to be seeing a team from out of town, so we will have to bring it even higher."
Maize is one of the premier soccer programs in Kansas. The Eagles entered its regional tournament as the No. 2 seed at 14-2-0. Coming into their quarterfinal against Kapaun, both teams seemed evenly matched. Almost all the teams in the Wichita area have beaten up on one another.
Aquinas beat Maize.
Kapaun beat Aquinas.
Northwest beat Kapaun.
And Maize beat Northwest, twice.
It was hard to get a read on what Maize team would show up against the Crusaders. Bailey Stedman changed that. Stedman rifled a free kick toward goal from about 35 yards out that crashed into Kapaun goalkeeper Maggie Koster's hands, went through and fell into the net.
Stedman said she wasn't even trying to score. She said coach Jay Holmes told her to send it to the far post.
"As soon as I kicked it, I looked at him and said, 'I'm so sorry, Jay,' " she said. "As soon as I looked back to see where it was, it was in the net."
Maize will need a little luck to win a state championship. Every team does. But the Eagles have their cut of talent to match. Senior Rachel Marshall took the reigns on that front just 10 minutes after Stedman's goal.
Off a corner kick, Marshall leaped and got her right foot to the cross, and it bounced into the net again. It was Marshall's 14th goal of the season, tied for a team-high.
Goal-scoring was another question for the Eagles coming into 2018. For a team that has boasted two 50-goal players in Makayla Toth and Katie McClure in the past two seasons, Maize does not have that go-to option this year. Instead, it is divide and conquer.
"We had five different girls that scored in double-figures," coach Jay Holmes said. "Instead of having one girl that scored 50, we have five that scored 65, and that really made a difference for us."
This year, Marshall has 14. Mallory Stegman has 14. And Kourtnee Davis has 13.
But perhaps most important at this point in the season, Maize has been through fire, at least a dozen times. The Eagles have played Northwest twice, Derby twice, Carroll twice, Valley Center, Maize South, Goddard twice, Aquinas and Kapaun.
Those teams are a combined 103-36-9.
For Maize to have gotten out of that gauntlet with only two losses is remarkable, but the Eagles have not forgotten those two losses. They had Aquinas beat but gave up two goals in the final 20 minutes to lose. And against Carroll, they were outclassed from the opening kickoff.
Marshall said both losses gave them a feeling they know they don't want to feel again this season.
"The second we showed up to practice, we were so straight and motivated," Marshall said. "We do not slack on that. As soon as we get in the locker room, we have a routine.
"And the second we step out on that pitch, its game on."
When Holmes called his team together after its win Tuesday, he told them the 2018 schedule was one of the most challenging he had put together in his 11 years at Maize. Holmes knows what is in front of them, first a meeting with Mill Valley (15-3) at 7 p.m. Friday in Topeka. But second, a feat his Maize teams have never achieved.
That is motivation in itself.
"The key now is to pay attention to the details," Holmes said. "Making sure they're going in hard on challenges and not just sticking a leg in. Linking well on our passes, and when we face a little bit of adversity, like we have this season, that we're able to rise above it."