HHS soccer cruises to 5-1 win
By KLINT SPILLER
When Liberal broke the 31-minute scoreless deadlock Tuesday, Hays High School senior Megan Bird said her team knew it needed to kick itself into gear.
The Indian girls' soccer team responded by completely shutting down Liberal and scored five unanswered goals to cruise to a 5-1 victory at HHS Field.
The Indians became so dominant, they didn't even allow Liberal to take a shot in the second half -- on goal or otherwise.
Bird scored the equalizer with 45 seconds to go in the first half and had a career night, compiling her first hat trick.
"We started playing how we are capable of," said Bird, who finished with seven shots and five on goal. "Off that, I got opportunities."
Hays High improved to 5-1 and 2-0 in the Western Athletic Conference while Liberal dropped to 3-3 and 1-1 in league action.
It was the worst loss Liberal has suffered this season and the biggest blowout Liberal has suffered against Hays High since a 6-0 Indian victory in 2010.
Liberal scored the opening goal in the 32nd minute on a set piece from near the center semicircle.
Hays High formed a wall to block the shot, but Hays High head coach Chris Michaelis said that was a mistake. Forming the wall that far out allowed Liberal girls to run free unmarked and plenty of space to find shot opportunities.
Junior Amelia Juarez took advantage and converted a shot from near the edge of the box.
"That's a learning process that the girls will learn from," Michaelis said. "We won't make that same mistake twice."
Bird started her trifecta-scoring night at the end of the first half. Freshman Lieacha Cook collected a bad pass from a Liberal player and kicked a through ball to the center of the field. Bird caught up to it and kicked it to the right of Liberal goalkeeper Magali Vazquez.
"That was the equalizer, and from there on, we knew we had to get going," Bird said.
Bird added the next goals in the second half as well.
On the first, senior outside midfielder April Johnson beat her defender along the right side and pinpointed a pass to Bird in front of the goal with laser-like precision, and Bird buried it in the back of the net.
"She's perfect," Johnson said with a grin as Bird stood next to her after the game. "I don't even know what to say. She just played really good."
The second was courtesy of senior forward Taylor Herman. Herman received the inbounds toss and drew in the defenders and tapped the ball to Bird as she ran past on the left side of the field.
Bird out sprinted the defenders and shot it low near the left corner with 18 minutes left to play.
Hays High senior Michele Linville stretched the lead to 4-1 in the 78th minute, as she collected the ball off a Liberal clear attempt and shot it to the top right corner of the goal from near the edge of the box.
Herman provided the final goal with 40 seconds left.
The ball harmlessly was rolling out of bounds near the endline to the left of the goal, but Vazquez dove toward Herman and Herman fell, drawing a foul and a penalty kick opportunity, which she converted to make it 5-1.
Michaelis said he thought the slow start was a result of a late game plan change. On practice Wednesday, he told the girls he wanted them to get the ball out wide and advance the ball from there.
"We struggled with that at the beginning of the game," Michaelis said. "As the game progressed, we got better and better at that. I think that's what made a huge difference."
Hays High's offense was difficult to stop in the second half, but the Indians' defense put on a fine display as well. Hays High stifled Liberal at every turn, allowing just two shots in the match.
"Our defenders are awesome," Bird said. "They really don't get enough credit."
Hays High will play Junction City at 4 p.m. Monday at HHS Field.
Bird said she's happy with her squad's start so far, explaining that it's pretty much mirrored last year's results. However, to bring themselves one game ahead of last year's team, Bird said they will have to avenge last year's loss to Junction City.
"I hope Monday we are mentally prepared for that game, and we can get a 'W,'" Bird said.