By the time the McPherson seniors leave the girls soccer program next month, they could finish with a 69-10-2 record with a high school state championship and three trips to the final four.
The Bullpups have competed together in several other sports throughout their high school careers. Last year, many of them helped McPherson to its ninth girls basketball title. But senior Hannah Hageman said that, so far, this 2019 soccer season tops them all.
“McPherson has a small town, so we have that bond that I would say no one else has,” she said. “You see our funny pregame videos. You can see our chemistry, and I think that shows on the field a lot.”
McPherson is 10-1-0 this season. The Pups’ only loss came at home to Maize South in their season-opening tournament championship game. Since then, they haven’t played the toughest schedule but have cruised through it, including a 5-1 road win over AVCTL III-IV contender Collegiate on Thursday night.
Those are the types of wins the Pups are chasing in 2019, but they have bigger ambitions.
Last year, McPherson finished third in Class 4-1A. Coach Chris Adrian called the state semifinal between his group and Bishop Miege the “state championship game.” It ended 2-1, and the next day, Miege beat Louisburg 5-0 in the final.
The Pups are now in Class 5A among title contenders like Blue Valley Southwest, Bishop Carroll and Valley Center. As of Friday, McPherson sits second in 5A West.
“There is no easy first or second round game anymore,” Adrian said. “We are playing in a way that is going to be effective against those 5A teams, rather than just trying to beat them with athleticism.”
McPherson’s attack is balanced in 2019. Claire Hedlund leads the way with 14 goals this season. Kenzee Godwin is close behind with 12. And Hageman, after a hat trick Thursday, has 11. Adrian said the talk coming into the season was about how the Pups could manufacture as many goals as they finished with last season.
So far, they have 58 goals in 11 games and have allowed just seven. At this point last year, McPherson had put 49 in the net. The stat sheet doesn’t look like it did last season with current Emporia State striker Aislynn Hughes still on the roster, but that is OK and, statistically, even better.
“This year, we may not have one player with 25 goals in 10 games, but we have three with more than 10,” Adrian said. “We are playing a lot more as a team. We relied a little bit too much on Aislynn last year, and we could. We could get away with that.
“But the way we’re set up now, I think we have the potential to be a lot more dangerous.”
McPherson players say not much has changed in their jump from 4-1A to 5A. The talent pool is deeper in Class 5A, but Adrian said he always knew he would have to run into Bishop Miege if his team kept winning.
Although the opponents’ jerseys will be different this postseason, the goal remains the same.
The Wichita area has brought home only one girls soccer state championship since the sport was officially sanctioned in Kansas in 1986. Trinity Academy won it all in 2014, but no area team has done it in Kansas’ top two classifications.
Given the camaraderie of the group formulated over years of success in almost anything the Pups have dipped their hands into, another state championship isn’t out of reach in 2019, senior Jaycee Burghart said.
“We want those state banners,” Burghart said. “We have won them in other sports, but we really want this one for the soccer program. So we are definitely playing with a chip on our shoulder.”