Dave Wiebenga can tell you after all his years of coaching girls soccer at Lee’s Summit what an impact the Melanie Grace Kickin’ against Cancer game has on his team. He expects the Tigers to play with a little more fire, and he’s rarely disappointed.
“They tend to really pick it up another notch because they know how important this is,” Wiebenga said. “It’s a big thing for the school, a big event for the school.”
On May 6, Lee’s Summit once again matched the big night with a big effort and routed Blue Springs 4-0 at Bud Hertzog Stadium.
This was the eighth annual Kickin’ Against Cancer game, which started as a fund-raiser to fight cancer in the memory of Melanie Grace, a girl who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 2002 when she was four years old. Melanie passed away in 2005 and the team soon started the event to help someone else fighting the disease.
Proceeds from this year’s game went to Jonas Borchert, a Lee’s Summit High sophomore who was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma while in middle school.
Many in the crowd wore gray and purple T-shirts sold before the game. Fans could also place bids in a silent auction outside the main grandstand or try their luck in a 50/50 raffle. All told, the event was expected to raise several thousand dollars.
The crowd, the cause and the special purple jerseys the Tigers wear in Melanie’s memory all help the Tigers find that extra gear year after year. The Tigers are now 7-1 in Kickin’ Against Cancer games, the only loss coming last year against Blue Springs.
“In the beginning we all got together and decided to play for those who can’t and just put it all on the line,” Lee’s Summit senior Jacque Sampson said. “There are some people who can’t play the sport that we love and we can’t take that for granted.”
Lee’s Summit certainly wasn’t taking Blue Springs for granted. The Wildcats came in 10-3 and with impressive victories over Lee’s Summit North and Kearney under their belts. Blue Springs, though, wouldn’t be in this game for long.
Lee’s Summit started the scoring when freshman Maddie Souder notched the first of her two goals with 25 minutes to play in the first half. Sampson sent a long pass to Souder, who blasted it into the upper part of the net.
Sampson made it 2-0 with 11:52 to go when she turned and one-timed a cross from Courtney Killian. Three minutes later, Souder got another through ball, faked out a Blue Springs defender and scored on another hard-hit shot.
“You get those two long-range goals like we did … that’s a tone setter,” Wiebenga said. “And our girls just kept going.”
Blue Springs, however, couldn’t. The Wildcats never had a serious scoring threat in the second half thanks to the Tigers’ tight defense. And when Annie Shackelford knocked home a goal with 11:03 to play, it was all but over.
“It was one of our better matches,” Wiebenga said. “I’m really proud of the way they played as a team. Everybody. There’s not a single girl who did not do her job tonight.”
When the Tigers are playing for Melanie Grace and cancer fighters everywhere, that’s just to be expected.
“We stepped up our game to a whole new level,” Souder said.