No denying it: De Soto caught looking ahead
De Soto senior Carrie Buser put it very simply.
"We can't get too frustrated," she said moments after De Soto disappointingly tied Basehor-Linwood Tuesday, 1-1.
"Thursday we're playing for a chance to take the league title, and it's Senior Night," she said, continuing. "And it's just us versus Mill Valley."
There was no denying De Soto's disappointment following a winning-streak breaking loss Monday and a grueling tie game Tuesday, but there was no point arguing the team was totally focused on either of the two games either.
Even with every game important in the league standings and every win priceless when the regional tournament is seeded in the coming weeks, De Soto is firmly focused on Thursday.
Mill Valley's coming in, and the Wildcats said there's nothing that'd right the wrongs of the last week faster than a decisive victory over the No. 1 rival.
De Soto lost the match up in heartbreaking fashion a season ago, falling 1-0 and failing to take advantage of a last-second chance to tie the game.
"I've been looking forward to this since last year," Buser said.
The Cats are so amped for the game, both Buser and coach Darren Erpelding agreed it hurt De Soto's chances Monday and Tuesday.
De Soto was listless in Monday's 2-1 loss to Kansas City Piper. The loss was the team's first in seven games and kept the Cats winless in four tries against Piper.
"We came out flat," Erpelding said. "They own us right now. Our middle was not good and they marked up Nicole (Radcliffe) and Jeni (Hill) pretty tight, and that threw us off."
Hill did manage De Soto's only goal, a feat she repeated in Tuesday's contest.
Despite controlling much of the first 40 minutes against Basehor, De Soto trailed at half. Basehor grabbed a lead late in the first period, squeezing a ball over De Soto goalie Megen Bedford and the Cats couldn't respond until the second.
De Soto kept a steady pressure on Basehor throughout the second half, but managed just one shot. Hill made sure it counted, rolling a ball slowly over the line after juking the goalie at the top of the box.
The Cats saw their opportunities to win fade as time wore on, however.
"We still controlled the ball most of the second half and we only got one shot off," Erpelding said. "That just blows my mind. I thought we created opportunities, but we weren't getting shots off."
De Soto's attack slowed to a crawl late in the second and Basehor reversed the momentum and left the Cats clinging for their lives in both of the fruitless overtime periods.
The Bobcats commanded the tempo, especially in the first extra period and were just short on several near-game ending shots. Bedford stopped two balls in the first overtime and a third went just wide. A streaking Basehor forward took a pass and had a nearly undefended look, but the ball went just high and a little too long.
"They had the momentum in overtime and we were getting tried," Erpelding said. "I thought we controlled both the first and second halves, but they controlled us in overtime.
The Cats whiffed on several chances early in the second overtime, then went back to dodging bullets as Basehor carried the momentum through the rest of the game.
"Both teams were dead by the end of the game."
Lethargic, flat, slow and unaggressive: all terms Erpelding used to describe his team's last two games, and all terms no one expects to apply to Thursday's showdown against Mill Valley.
A lot will be on the line. De Soto has just two league losses and is desperately trying to claw for an advantageous seed in the regional tournament. Erpelding said he wants to avoid St. Thomas-Aquinas and Blue Valley West as long as possible and the more wins, the better the opportunity his team has of doing that.
The league title could also be on the line. De Soto is currently tied with Mill Valley and Kansas City Christian atop the league, each holding a 6-1 record.
But good luck convincing anyone that the most important thing played for this week -- maybe even this season -- isn't pride.
"We've been looking at the game and some of us have been overfocused," Buser admitted. "We've been trying to keep it one game at a time, knowing that each game matters for regionals, but everyone knows that Thursday is huge.
"I'd rather walk away Thursday with the win than (Tuesday) if I could only take one. I wish we could have gotten both, but if I could only have one, I'd rather have Thursday."