All the nation is a stage
Stanley hits penalty shot in semis, helps Kansas advance to national tourney
What may be De Soto's best will go on to face the nation's best.
Carly Stanley, the Wildcats' most valuable player during the 2008 spring soccer season - as voted on by her teammates - helped a Kansas state Olympic Development Program team advance past 14 other state teams. The victories mean Kansas will now face the winning state teams of the other four regions in the United States. With a 1-0 victory over Wisconsin July 9, Kansas' record was pushed to 4-0-1 and the team advanced to compete in the national tournament in March at the Disney Sports Complex in Florida.
The team may not have ever gotten to that final game if it weren't for Stanley's heroics in the semifinal match against Michigan.
With the score knotted at 1-1 and time expired, the game came down to penalty kicks. Kansas' coaches, Tim Collins, head coach at Washburn University, and Jessica Smith, a former Kansas University player, met with the team briefly.
The coaches knew who the first four shooters would be, but asked the other members of the team who were on the field at the end of regulation who among them felt confident enough to take the final shot.
Before Smith could even name all of the first four shooters, Stanley raised her hand confidently.
Then after the first four shooters didn't seal a victory, Stanley stuck the ball into the left side, midway up the net, and the game was over.
"She hit it confidently. She hit it so hard that it hit the back post and came back out," Collins said. "For Carly to be at the age that she is, to step up and want to do that, is a huge positive reflection on where her game has the potential to go.
"That's everything on the line, right there, and the emphasis is on the kicker, not the keeper."
To get to that point, the Kansas team beat Kentucky, 3-1, then tied Ohio South, 3-3. In the 42nd minute of that match, Stanley had an assist which was her only relevant stat since she plays a defensive position, center mid, on the team. Kansas then rolled over Nebraska, 2-0, setting up the semifinal showdown with Michigan.
With the 2-1 victory off the leg of Stanley, Kansas advanced to the finals for only the second time in Kansas ODP history.
The team then made history by defeating Wisconsin, 1-0, and advancing into the National ODP tournament to be held later in the year.
Despite having basically the same group of girls, Stanley said this year's team was inexplicably better.
"I thought our team had more talent than probably any other team there," she said. "I don't even know why. Last year it wasn't like that, this year it was."
Both coaches spoke glowingly of Stanley's current ability and potential, despite her being somewhat slight in stature.
"She works hard. She's smaller than some of the rest on our team, but you wouldn't be able to tell that by the way she goes into tackles," Smith said. "She plays bigger than she is."
The only drawback of the experience, at least for the Wildcats, is that De Soto will have to do without Stanley for up to three games next spring. Kansas State High School Activities Association rules dictate that national tournament games count against a player's total number of games played during a high school season.