Tigers tough it out and keep going

dmcqueen@lsjournal.comMay 30, 2014 

It’s been a long time since Lee’s Summit has been in the Class 3 girls soccer quarterfinals. Thirteen years, to be exact. And before the Tigers could celebrate that milestone, they had another long wait to endure.

Lee’s Summit is back in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2001 after holding off Lee’s Summit North 1-0 in a sectional game May 27 at the Bronco Activity Complex. The Tigers, 15-4-1, earned a match up at 20-0 St. Teresa’s at noon Aug. 31 for a spot in the state tournament.

And the Tigers did earn this one: They scored a goal in the game’s early minutes and then withstood North’s best punches the rest of the way for their first victory over their cross-town rivals in three tries this season.

“I’m extremely happy for these girls,” Lee’s Summit coach Dave Wiebenga said. “We have a bunch of kids that come in every day, they work hard every day they work for each other and they find a way. That’s what we’ve been talking about all year – finding a way.”

The Tigers found a way with a stifling defense that has given up less than a goal per season. When the Broncos poured on the pressure in the second half, the Tigers hunkered down and goalie Alexis Gochnauer came up with some critical saves.

“When you get deeper and deeper into the tournament, your defense is going to win you a lot of games, and our defense won tonight,” Wiebenga said.

But first, Lee’s Summit needed a lead to defend, and they got it, appropriately enough, from a defender.

Just six minutes into the game, Lee’s Summit freshman Lexy Hawkins got control of the ball a good 10 yards outside the 18-yard box and let it fly. Her shot sailed high in the air and landed in the net behind Broncos goalie Bailey Doerflinger.

“I just stepped up and got the pass from them and then I just dribbled in and took the shot, Hawkins said of her second goal of the season. “I thought it was going to go over but it just went right in the top corner.”

Hawkins’ shot came as no surprise to Wiebenga, who had seen her make it before in practice.

“She has all the capabilities in the world of hitting that shot,” Wiebenga said. “She’s got that shot, and she’s not afraid to pull the trigger.”

Hawkins pulled the trigger just a minute after North’s Hannah Bomar was called offside after punching in a one-on-one attempt. It would be the first of many opportunities the Broncos would miss.

North turned up the pressure in the second half, but with the Tigers packing more players in the back of the field, the Broncos had to work hard for their shots.

Their best chance came with 23 minutes left in the game. Bomar was alone in the box again and shot the ball toward Gochnauer, and kicked it again as Gochnauer dove on it. The ball went in the net, but the official ruled that Gochnauer was already in possession.

“It was a bang-bang play,” North coach Ryan Kelley said. “The official felt that the girl had the ball in her hand and Hannah was running through. He didn’t call a foul but he thought the keeper had possession. It is what it is.”

From there the Tigers hung on. And North watched its 17-6-2 season come to a frustrating end.

“It hurts right now, but I hope in a couple of weeks they can look back and see how special the season was,” Kelley said.

For the Tigers, the season continues on. If the Tigers get by nationally ranked St. Teresa’s, they’ll get to play in the state final four at Blue Springs.

All of which proved worth the wait for a team that didn’t even have a winning record last season.

“I could not ask for anything else as a senior,” Gochnauer said. “A lot of people doubted us, but then this season we came through and showed everyone we could do it.”


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