Soccer season ends with loss
Nine state titles.
Umpteen regional championships.
No. 17 in the country.
Those are the accolades that stared Darren Erpelding’s soccer squad in the face when it took to the pitch for a bout with the Saints of Saint Thomas Aquinas Friday in Overland Park.
Aquinas, a perennial soccer power, proved why it is currently the No. 2 seed in the state, knocking De Soto out of the regional semifinals, 8-0.
“That was definitely the best team we’ve ever played,” junior midfielder Carly Stanley said. “They were very good.”
Nine minutes into the game Aquinas tested De Soto goalkeeper Jamie Zvirgzdins for the first true time as STA’s Ashley Washburn took down a long ball at the top of the 18-yard box and forced Zvirgzdins to punch a low shot wide.
Three minutes later, Washburn redeemed herself. After the ball was momentarily cleared by Tami Crow, Nikki Alfonsin whipped in a ball that bounced behind the De Soto defense. A sprinting Washburn was right place-right time and swiftly headed the ball past Zvrigzdins outstretched hands for the first goal.
Washburn didn’t waste any time notching her second—she scored a hat trick in the contest—and slotted home a breakaway with her left foot to the far post just two and a half minutes later.
Aquinas scored its third goal with just more than 18 minutes left in the first half, which virtually ended any chance at a De Soto comeback.
“Actually, I didn’t know they were as good as they were,” coach Darren Erpelding said. “They’re better than they were last year. I was shocked they were beat twice. I can’t see, in all honesty, anybody else beating them unless someone plays out of their mind.”
While STA dominated the possession and prevented De Soto from mounting much of a counter-attack offense, Stanley did provide a few inspired runs deep into the Saints’ half of the field during the second half.
Zvirgzdins also had a small highlight reel of her own late in the second half with several consecutive diving saves to deny Saints’ forwards. Even still, Aquinas cruised to the victory and is one step closer to its tenth state championship.
“It’s just tough when you play a team where all the girls play on club teams during the offseason,” Stanley said. “We’re a pretty good team considering we only have three girls who play club ball.”
De Soto advanced to play Aquinas by beating Basehor-Linwood, 6-0, in the first round Thursday at De Soto. Zvirgzdins saw just two shots come her way during the match, and De Soto’s offense sped past the much slower Bobcat defense. Danielle Price scored three goals, Stanley scored two and senior Amber Laudick scored another, which was her first career goal.
“All in all, the girls played pretty well,” Erpelding said after the game. “We dominated them. That game wasn’t even close.”
While the score wasn’t close – De Soto led 2-0 at the half and tacked on six more in the second half – the game, however, was marred by physical play, with both teams having players get knocked down several times.
Stanley and Price were taken out a few times each, and Erpelding basically pleaded for the officials to call some penalties. Finally, a Basehor player was ejected late in the second half. Price said she felt she just had to keep her composure.
“You just have to keep your cool, and as long as you’re winning it’s kind of like payback,” she said. “That’s what I think of it as.”
The Wildcats finished the season 11-6-1 and will return several starters next season. Overall, Stanley said she was proud of her team’s 2009 campaign.
“We started off a little rocky but then played really well in the middle of the season,” Stanley said. “We were able to keep that going at the end of the year, too.”
Jeff Deters contributed to this report.