Cats take good, bad
Team’s easy win, tough match lead to regionals
De Soto prepared itself for a run at the Kansas 4A state soccer tournament by playing teams at both ends of the win-loss spectrum last week.
On one end, the Wildcats played Maranatha Academy, a team that continually puts together a run at the state championship. On the other end, the Wildcats were hosts of a young Eudora team that's still in the learning and building stages of its program.
As a result, the Wildcats will take a 13-4 record into the second round of the soccer regional against either Immaculata or Piper after they split with the two teams.
Against Maranatha's team Thursday, the Wildcats gave up a goal early and late as they fell to the top-ranked team in 4A by a 2-0 margin.
"We did a good job of challenging balls in the midfield and on defense," De Soto coach Mike Murphy said. "The guys did a good job of shielding and making sure Maranatha didn't get off any good shots.
Maranatha did take quite a few shots against the Wildcats, but not a lot of good shots. They out-shot De Soto 23-6 for the game.
Freshman Jesse Nelson started the scoring for the Eagles when De Soto goalkeeper Sean Karashin was the recipient of some bad luck. After Karashin slid over to protect the side of the goal that the ball was on, Nelson blooped a lob shot over his head after the ball ricocheted off an Eagle defender and over to him. The result was a 1-0 Maranatha lead with nearly 76 minutes left in the match.
Jared Stafos gave the Eagles an insurance goal in the last minute when he went head-to-head with Karashin and won the battle.
Murphy gave special mention to Bryan Buser for playing possibly his best game as a Wildcat and Josh Arnold for his defensive play.
"Josh did an excellent job defending against Jon Lemmon," Murphy said. "He is the leading scorer in the state with 30 or 31 goals. His (Arnold) defense was really big in the success we had in the game."
In Monday's first-round regional match against Eudora five Wildcats combined, out-scoring the Cardinals by a 10-0 margin.
Jordan Hevel and Jesse Smith, the leading scorers for the Wildcats this year, each scored three goals as they assured the Wildcats would move on in the state playoffs.
Kyle Bray tallied a pair of goals while James Azeltine and Hector Carlos each scored a goal.
Despite the runaway win, Murphy said he was concerned with the lack of focus his team put forth in the first 10 minutes of the match.
"I do understand that when you've beaten a team like that earlier in the year it's tough to maintain your focus," Murphy said. "We did do a good job of going to the ball and challenging their shots."
De Soto, 13-4, will play the winner of Tuesday's matchup between Immaculata and Piper.
Although the Wildcats knocked off both teams twice during the regular season, Murphy had concerns about having to beat a team for the third time in the same season. But he also said there were some advantages.
"We know who their scorers are, so we know who to watch out for," Murphy said. "Plus, I think it's easier to get up for a team like that. After all, they are a conference team."
Murphy hoped that as his Wildcats marched through the playoffs they would be able to combine defensive gems like the one they had against Maranatha with the offensive firepower displayed against Eudora.
The second round of regionals will be at 5 p.m. Friday against either the Pirates or the Raiders in De Soto. The game was moved to Friday because of Thursday's home football game against Bishop Ward.
"We're hoping that we've had a good enough season that the students, teachers and fans will come out and support us," Murphy said. "That's why we wanted to host the regional on Friday. So we could be the only show in town."