Adjustments to positioning and formation give soccer team win in last home game
It was the last time the most prolific scorer in the program's young history would play at home.
Seemingly on cue, senior Nicole Radcliffe scored four goals in the first half of the Wildcats soccer team's 10-1 victory over Bonner Springs. Her career total now stands at 56, most in a career by anybody who has played at De Soto since the program's inception four years ago.
Radcliffe was glad to go out on a good note.
"It means a lot to me, because it's like trying to prove myself in the last game," Radcliffe said. "This will be the last time that I'll ever play with the team, if we lose in the regional game, so I had to play hard."
The win Monday, on senior night, closes out the regular season for De Soto. From now on, beginning with regionals, it's either win or go home.
It was evident early that the Wildcats outmatched Bonner Springs. Two minutes, 58 seconds into the contest Radcliffe took a pass from Danielle Price and beat the Braves' last line of defense leaving her one on one with the goalkeeper. Radcliffe put the ball into the corner of the net, giving the Wildcats an advantage they never relinquished.
At the 34 minute, 44 second mark Price added a goal of her own, assisted by Carly Stanley, and the rout was on.
The third De Soto goal was perhaps the most impressive of the evening, coming off two passes by Carly Stanley and Julie Bray. Stanley crossed the ball behind the defense to Bray, who took the ball wide to the side of the net. Bray crossed the ball right in front of the goal, where Radcliffe got a touch amongst two Braves defenders and the goalkeeper. She hit a spinning volley into the back of the net, putting De Soto up, 3-0.
Radcliffe added two more goals 20 seconds apart with just under 25 minutes to play, which capped her night scoring.
Stanley got a breakaway with 12 minutes, 26 seconds to play and beat the goalkeeper for her lone goal of the night, giving De Soto a 6-0 lead.
For the Braves, their goal came with 8 minutes, 33 seconds left in the first half. Bonner Springs' Amber Barnes beat the defense, and De Soto goalkeeper Jamie Zvirgdins tried to make a sliding tackle on the ball but it was out of her reach. Barnes then put the ball in the empty net and put the Braves on the board.
That's where the score stood at halftime. Despite the comfortable lead, coach Darren Erpelding thought his team could have done better.
"I wasn't real happy, actually, with the first half. I thought we had too big of a gap between our midfield and our back. We didn't have any support play. We weren't pressuring very well. We didn't use our outside-mids. We were playing too vertical," he said. "The second half, we played much better. We had a lot more shape."
The adjustments for De Soto led to more of the same. Price scored three goals, and Kelsey Fisher added one in the second half. Crediting adjustments to the team's structure, Price seemed to think the team was on an upswing heading into regionals.
"We've improved a lot. We've switched up some people's positions and it's really helped our team. We moved Julie (Bray) back out wide, and she's doing a really good job getting crosses in and that's really helping us put some away."
Last week after the Shawnee Heights defeat, the team beat Immaculata 1-0 in one half of play before inclement weather ended the game. De Soto then lost to Mill Valley Friday, 2-0.
"We lost 2-0, but we probably had four breakaways that we didn't put away," Erpelding said. "We very easily could have had 2 or 3 goals."
Regionals are from May 12 to May 15, and first-round opponents, game times and locations are yet to be determined. There is a field of 18 teams in the regional.
"Right now we're sitting at a seven seed. We could move up to a six. I doubt we'll move down," coach Darren Erpelding said. "If we don't get (matched up with) St. Thomas Aquinas or St. James, we'll be fine."