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Kaiser leading HHS defense

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

Hays High sophomore Reagan Kaiser is the anchor of the Indian soccer team's defense.

Kaiser, who plays sweeper, is so good, so knowledgable and such a leader of this Indian squad that Hays High coach Chris Michaelis mistakenly called her a junior in a post-game interview last week.

"She plays well beyond her years out there," Michaelis said after realizing he misspoke.

The record-breaking Indian offense has rightfully received credit for its exploits this season, but Kaiser and her defensive back line rarely get their names mentioned or blared through the speakers at games.

Nevertheless, the Indians (13-3) have allowed just 16 goals this season -- the third best regular-season total in school history.

"Our forwards do all the scoring and get a lot of recognition, but I know my teammates especially appreciate me back there," Kaiser said. "They realize it's a hard spot to play being the last person back there. If (the ball) goes in, you feel like its your fault."

With the first round of the regional tournament Tuesday, Kaiser and the Indian defense will have to be on their toes. Hays High will play Liberal (2-13-1) at 4 p.m. Tuesday at HHS Field.

That shouldn't be a problem for Kaiser. Maintaining constant awareness is her main job as the sweeper.

Kaiser serves as the field general for the Indian defense. From her vantage point at the back, she sees how plays progress and barks out orders to coordinate the players in front of her.

If the opponent gets past the back line, she's the last line of defense. It's her job to get in front of them and stop the attack.

"She understands the game and understands the tactical side," Michaelis said. "She knows how to position herself to prevent a ball from being passed all the way through."

Kaiser, who has played soccer since she was 4 years old, showed her knowledge of the game and bravery last season. Despite being a freshman, she started all season as the sweeper, telling upperclassmen where to go and what to do.

"That takes a special person to be able to be in charge of that back line as a freshman and have all these upperclassmen in front of you," Michaelis said. "But Reagan stepped up to that challenge."

Kaiser and juniors Lauren Murphy and Kaitlin Gulley form the back line for Hays High this year, and they have helped keep the pressure off first-year starting goalkeeper Laura Truman.

Because Hays High does a good job with possession and the back line prevents players from getting into scoring position, Truman will go games where she rarely has to even touch the ball.

"I think we all have a lot of talent, ... and we all work together really well," Murphy said. "We all know each other's strengths and weaknesses."

This has been one of the best regular seasons statistically in the history of the program, and if the Indians want to continue that streak and go farther than any team has in the past, they'll have to win more than two games in the post-season -- a feat accomplished in 2010.

Against Liberal this season, Hays High won 2-1 in double overtime at home and 2-0 on the road.

If the Indians win their first game, they'll play the winner of Andover Central (9-6-1) and Goddard (7-9) at 4 p.m. Thursday at HHS Field.

Hays High hasn't played Goddard this season, but the Indians lost to Andover Central in the finals of the McPherson Invitational.

"We like to take every game at a time," Kaiser said. "You can't think about the future. You can't think about past games. You just have to go into it thinking about that one game."