Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Strong Second Half Carries Rural to 6A Regional Soccer Title

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Strong Second Half Carries Rural to 6A Regional Soccer Title

Article excerpt

If Thursday's Class 6A regional soccer final against Free State had been an ordinary regular-season game, Washburn Rural probably could have been up two or three goals by halftime, considering all the opportunities it was creating.

But with several Junior Blues playing in the biggest game of their high school careers, Rural was having issues settling down and burying opportunities in the first half.

However, once the Junior Blues found the back of the net, they exhaled and took complete control. Rural deposited three unanswered goals in the second half to post a 3-0 victory on its home field.

Rural (16-2) will advance to host Centennial League rival Manhattan in the Class 6A quarterfinals Tuesday.

"We're definitely a young team, and since we were playing an experienced team like Free State, I think we were all really nervous," said Rural sophomore Darby Hirsch, one of three underclassmen to record a goal. "We definitely missed some chances, but we ended up finishing them in the second half, and that's really all that mattered."

The missed opportunities in the first half included a header that hit the post and two other missed shots from close range.

"I think in the playoffs, everything seems bigger," Rural coach Brian Hensyel said. "Every missed shot seems like a bigger mistake, and every bad pass seems like a bigger mistake. But in reality, once we relaxed and went back to the things we needed to do -- winning the middle of the field, keeping the other team in on their side and just creating chances -- eventually, something was going to go in."

Freshman Avery Munns got Rural on the board about five and a half minutes into the second half, putting in a loose ball that Free State goalie Anneliese Hierl wasn't able to corral after Hirsch sent the ball in on a corner kick.

"Avery has a knack for just being there," Hensyel said. …

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