Finally, the rain ceased and the game for the girls soccer championship of Kansas’ largest high school classification could be contested.
Blue Valley West won its third straight Class 6A state championship in its fourth consecutive state finals appearance Sunday at Wichita South High School, beating Washburn Rural 1-0.
“Being to four finals is amazing,” Blue Valley West coach Alex Aiman said. “Especially for a public school to do that.”
Although they were veterans of state championships, Aiman believed that it was luck and magic that truly helped his players win their third championship in a row.
The Jaguars were the more dominant team offensively, but the Junior Blues’ defense matched their intensity, keeping the entire game tight.
The only goal scored was a fluke: Blue Valley West junior Andree Orcutt shot from 20 yards, the ball landing right in the Washburn Rural keeper’s hands.
The keeper lost possession of the ball and it proceeded to bounce into the net.
Aiman said that goal was the bit of magic the Jaguars needed.
“It was a back-and-forth game,” he said. “We had chances, they had chances. Sometimes you got to get lucky and have some magic down the rabbit hole. That was our magic.”
Aiman said his Blue Valley West side had a target on its back all season as 6A’s two-time state champion.
“You’ve got a bullseye on you,” he said. “Everybody plays us with their best game because everybody wants to beat us. We got beat this year pretty bad, and that actually turned out to be a good thing. It was a wake-up call.”
As team captain, University of Nebraska-bound Marissa Popoola knew the pressure would be amplified this season, and on Sunday. She made a point of letting her teammates become comfortable with making mistakes, but always learning from them.
“That’s how we keep our composure and understand that there is going to be a target on our backs,” she said.
While teams brought their best game to play Blue Valley West, the Jaguars quickly learned that they couldn’t overlook their opponents. Sunday was no exception.
“The key is to never play like we’re going to win — that’s the biggest thing,” Popoola said. “Teams can change all the time. We’ve lost and it just makes us grow better as a team and individuals.”