Varsity Soccer

‘Improve your schedules’: Why a team in Wichita is becoming Bishop Miege of the south

The two teams that reached the Kansas Class 4-1A state soccer championship game finished the regular season with an 11-21-0 combined record.

When the game kicked off at Wichita’s Stryker Sports Complex, Bishop Miege and Trinity Academy became the worst pair of teams to get to the title match — or maybe the best.

Bishop Miege beat Trinity 3-1 to capture its fourth straight boys soccer state championship and sixth in the past seven years. The Stags have been one of the most dominant programs in Kansas history on the state tournament level.

And there is reason to believe Trinity Academy could be the next closest thing in Class 4-1A.

Miege plays in the Eastern Kansas League. The Stags are the smallest school in the league and the only one that competes outside of Classes 6A and 5A. That said, they still have to play against some of the biggest schools in the state.

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Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

Blue Valley West won the 2017 6A title and was runner-up this season. Blue Valley Southwest won 5A for the third straight year and has won those three title matches 13-1 combined. Miege played — and lost to — both in three days this year. Two days before that stretch, the Stags played Olathe West, the eventual 6A champion.

The Stags also went to the Go 4 The Goal Classic in Burlington, Iowa. Teams in Kansas are allowed to compete up to 500 miles away from the border, according to Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) rule.

The o 4 The Goal Classic is about 300 miles away.

This year, Topeka’s Washburn Rural, Overland Park’s St. Thomas Aquinas and Blue Valley North joined Miege in Iowa. Miege coach Nate Huppe said his team played four of the top 50 teams in the country.

This season, Bishop Miege played zero teams in Kansas’ Class 4-1A during the regular season. The Stags played five against out-of-state teams, four vs. 5A opponents and seven against 6A foes.

Huppe said playing better teams makes his team better.

“Improve your schedule, and you’ll do better in the playoffs,” Huppe said. “If you don’t play a tough schedule, you never have to adjust. You never have to play a different system. You never have to put your best forward in the back to shadow the other team’s goal scorer.

“I think we played six different systems in this tournament. We played three in this game. (Trinity) played two today.”

In Wichita, Trinity Academy is under somewhat similar circumstances and found itself in the state final against Meige.

Trinity finished the regular season 5-11-0. The Knights didn’t play in any out-of-state tournaments but played 10 games against Kansas’ 6A teams. They played five in 5A and one 4-1A game.

Trinity played the 5A runner-up, Maize South, and the 6A fourth-place team, Wichita East, twice. The Knights played five games against teams that won regional championships.

Louisburg and Coffeyville, the No. 1 seeds in Class 4-1A East and West, played two games combined against regional title winners.

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Since 2011, only one team in the Wichita area — Rose Hill with four appearances — has reached more 4-1A state tournaments than Trinity. Rose Hill hasn’t been to state since winning in 2015, but this season, the Rockets played three regional title winners and one state qualifier.

Rose Hill went 0-4 in those games and was outscored 10-1, but the Rockets have shown a commitment to playing tough competition even if the talent doesn’t match what they had a few years ago.

The only difference between Trinity and Bishop Miege is that Miege is part of a league. Trinity is not.

The Knights compete in the Central Kansas League outside of soccer. That league doesn’t offer enough programs that field a soccer team. That means Trinity operates as an independent KSHSAA program.

Trinity coach Mark Brooks said he has to fill in where other programs have gaps. He said it’s slim pickings, and that often means Trinity has to face the best teams.

Brooks said the state championship wasn’t the toughest game his team played this season.

On, Oct. 3, Trinity faced Wichita East, the outright City League champion and eventual fourth-place finisher in Class 6A. East was on nine days of rest, and the Knights lost 7-1.

“They know they are punching above their weight, and they know they are probably going to get hammered,” Brooks said. “But you have to embrace failure as an opportunity to learn. I would rather know my weaknesses.”

Brooks said his team is “not even close to similar” to Miege. Although the final score Saturday was 3-1, Miege dominated possession. Trinity’s only goal and lone legitimate goal-scoring opportunity came 10 minutes into the game when senior midfielder Kai Kan curled in a corner kick straight into the net.

Huppe said his players handle the losses well. He said they have the experience of going through an unforgiving regular season and know what is waiting on the other side.

Brooks said it wasn’t that easy for his players this season.

“About halfway through, we didn’t really get a sense that we could have any hope of doing well in the postseason,” Brooks said.

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Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

But the Knights figured it out. Oct. 10, they beat Bishop Carroll 2-1 for one of the biggest wins in program history. That gave them life.

Huppe has the luxury of playing in the EKL, a league that has produced 31 boys soccer state championships since 2000. In that time, the Wichita area has 10 total, including one from Salina South and two from McPherson.

In fact, no title has come out of the Wichita city limits since Wichita Northwest assembled one of the greatest teams in Kansas history, going 21-0-0 in 2012.

There is more soccer talent in the Kansas City area.

Trinity Academy might have topped out its strength of schedule against teams in the Wichita area, but that was good enough to reach the state championship game and lose to a four-time champion that has a built-in advantage in geography.

Trinity and Miege have another quality in common: They are private schools.

In Class 4-1A, each of the final four teams — Miege, Trinity, Topeka Hayden and Olathe Heritage Christian — are private.

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Hayden Barber The Wichita Eagle

Since 2011, there have been 33 private schools that have reached the state semifinals in classes 5A and 4-1A, the only two that have competing private schools. There have been 31 public schools.

In 2013, four private schools fielded the 5A tournament. Six years later, four private schools competed in the 4-1A semifinals.

This year was the first time in more than a decade that four public schools made up the same state tournament as Blue Valley Southwest, Maize South, Goddard Eisenhower and Shawnee Heights made up the Class 5A final four.

Huppe said private schools play tougher schedules.

“Three of us in the final four had losing records going into the postseason,” Huppe said. “I know people are upset that it’s all private here, but we had to go through other privates, and we had to go through other publics.”

Class 5A’s top two finishers lost six combined games in the regular season and drew two more. Blue Valley Southwest and Maize South faced three regional champions and four state qualifiers. And they faced four teams in 4-1A.

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Huppe said he believes Bishop Miege could contend for the Class 5A or 6A state titles despite going 0-3 against state qualifiers in those tournaments because he knows no brand in Kansas intimidates his side. He said he thought the same of Trinity Academy.

“So what if you got a losing record?” Huppe said. “Some schools would be happy with a regional title and a good regular season. We want to be down here because this is what you play for.”

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Wichita Eagle preps reporter Hayden Barber brings the area updates on all high school sports while adding those hard-to-find human-interest stories on Wichita’s student-athletes.
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