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Hays High soccer rolls to outright title

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

If there were any doubts about this team -- and there rightfully should have been after a surprising 2-0 loss at undermanned McPherson High School on Tuesday -- consider them gone.

Needing a win on Thursday to wrap up a perfect Western Athletic Conference season and clinch a third-straight WAC title, the Hays High School girls' soccer team responded with an unquestioned 6-0 romp of Dodge City High School at HHS Field.

"After the loss on Tuesday, the girls showed great character and bounced back in an amazing way against a good team," Hays High coach Saul Hernandez said. "There was pressure on them because they knew they had to win. Dodge only had one loss in conference, and we needed to win this, so we wouldn't have to rely on any other results or share the title with them."

Hays High (11-3-1, 8-0 WAC) won't be sharing its conference crown with anyone in Hernandez's first season leading the Indians. They clinched a share of the WAC title on Monday after a 4-0 win over Garden City, but needed a win Thursday against Dodge City (6-8, 4-2 WAC) to secure the outright crown.

Hernandez, a 2002 Dodge City High graduate who won a WAC title with the Demons in 2000, barely snuck past his alma mater in their first meeting on April 8, a 2-1 overtime win for the Indians on the road in their WAC opener.

But that was a much different Hays High team from the one on the field Thursday.

"Today I think we came out here and we just really wanted it. We talked well; we looked up and found each other," HHS senior defender Reagan Kaiser said. "I think we've definitely come a long way since the beginning of the season. We had a lot of new girls this year and I think when we first played Dodge we were still putting some things together."

Hays High looked anything but incomplete on Thursday. Dodge City held the Indians without a goal for the first 21 minutes despite a barrage of early shots. But once the Indians finally got one into the net, it was difficult to keep them out the rest of the way.

Freshman Courtney Molleker opened the flood gates with two goals in the span of 77 seconds just past the midway point of the first half. Kaiser added a third before halftime, when she put the finishing touches on a Brooke Russell corner kick in the 34th minute, set up by a nice touch pass from senior Lacey Pfannenstiel.

"It's pretty exciting any time a defender gets a goal, especially for me," Kaiser said. "I don't get that opportunity very often. I think that's my third goal in my whole four years here and I've had two this year."

Hays High continued to control the ball in the second half, eventually making it 4-0 when freshman Tressa Becker found net in the 49th minute. Roughly 14 minutes later, senior Alexa Brull put in a difficult shot from the right side to give the Indians a 5-0 lead with less than 18 minutes to play.

Freshman Maddie Keller sent the game out in style with her gorgeous penalty-kick goal, which sailed perfectly over the goalkeeper's head from distance, with 11:33 remaining.

The Dodge City offense never threatened in any way, with Hays High outshooting the Demons 13-3. Sophomore Brittany Dinkel got three saves in goal for the Indians, helping get them a sixth shutout in the last eight games, and seventh on the season.

"I think the girls were hungrier this game," Hernandez said. "Toward the end of the season, they are doing the things that we were supposed to be doing at the beginning of the season. They have been doing a great job of knowing what their job is and their responsibilities on the field."

The Indians will wrap up their regular-season schedule next Thursday when they host Salina Central on senior night with a 4:30 p.m. start.