Thomas More Prep-Marian girls’ soccer coach Darryl Wellbrock said he had it in his head his team would come out in Thursday’s season opener against Hays High School and play well, but this was mostly the wishful thinking of an optimistic coach. In reality, the Monarchs played beyond even his most realistic expectations.
“A 1-0 win would have been fine with me. But within the first 10 to 15 minutes you could see things develop,” Wellbrock said. “I was not anticipating that much against a good, quality program that we tied at the end of last year. They lost some girls but I don’t think they lost that much. But I think I’ve gained a bunch and the girls are focused and worked hard.”
What transpired was a 5-0 win for TMP (1-0) over Hays High (0-1) at the Bickle/Schmidt Sports Complex. It was the first win for the Monarch girls’ soccer team over HHS in the 10 years the program has existed, the Monarch boys having earned their first win over the Indians back in the fall.
Last year, the TMP and Hays High girls went to overtime twice, the first ending in a 1-0 HHS win, the second a scoreless draw.
“As a four-year senior, just watching our team grow has been amazing. Freshman year we never would have expected this,” TMP senior Alyssa Keil said. “It feels really great. We had a lot of games where we went to overtime and that got really frustrating. This year one of our goals was just to not go into any overtimes and just come out here and take the win and we pulled through today.”
While she never scored Thursday, TMP junior forward Bailey Hageman — last year’s leading scorer with 13 goals — was the main reason the Monarchs were able to gain control early against Hays High. Hageman had a couple of early breakaway opportunities and helped establish the Monarchs as the aggressor.
Hays High junior goalie Taylor Groen-Younger was brilliant early on, but eventually the relentless TMP attack was going to break through. The first real crack in HHS’s armor came in the 28th minute on a goal by freshman Aubrey Koenigsman, which Keil followed less than two minutes later to send TMP to halftime leading 2-0.
“I knew they would come out hard and fast. I just told the girls we have to be patient,” first-year HHS head coach Jim Maska said. “Really, we just talked to the girls, I don’t think we played like a team like (TMP) did. We played in groups, little clique groups, two or three, and that’s all we’d rely on.”
Hays High was able to control the ball better in the second half, but TMP wasn’t going to be denied in the long run. The Monarchs made it 3-0 when Keil scored her second goal in the games’ 47th minute. She would complete her first career hat trick with a third goal with less than seven minutes remaining, the game's fourth goal coming from freshman Kayla Vitztum midway through the second half.
“I was ecstatic because I did not expect this at all. But it really shows when you give 100 percent anything is possible,” Keil said of her hat trick. “I think with our first game there were a lot of nerves at the beginning of it. But once we got into our zone we really focused and we gave it 100 percent and then we started possessing the ball and getting some goals off.”
The loss may have been a harsh reality check for Hays High, playing without superstar defender Reagan Kaiser, a 2014 graduate, for the first time in four years. However, Maska saw enough in the second half of Thursday’s game to remain positive. His main emphasis post-game was on team unity, and he mentioned the HHS boys went through much the same thing in the fall before turning it on late in the season.
“The guys’ season started out that way. By the end of the year we are putting points on the board because we were starting to trust each other. We’ve got to learn to grow, trust each other,” Maska said. “We’ll get there. The girls just have to start trusting each other and just make the pass. It’s one game. One game doesn’t define a season and I told the girls that. How you start the beginning of the season isn’t as important as how you finish the season.”
For TMP, it was a perfect start for a season that already has high expectations. The Monarchs have set numerous goals this season, having personal quotas on shutouts, points, wins, etc., but for at least one evening the story wasn’t about the big picture possibilities, but about finally beating Hays High.
“Awesome. I can’t tell you the feeling. Emotions right now are very high, especially for the girls,” said Wellbrock, whose daughter, Deonna, recorded the shutout in net for the Monarchs. “To come out with a victory and this big of a victory is a sign, I hope, of things to come. Very excited.”
Hays High well next compete in the McPherson Invitational beginning Tuesday. TMP gets right back at it today with a 4 p.m. game at Wichita’s Classical School, a late addition to the schedule. Following that, the Monarchs will play at defending Class 4-3-2-1A state champion Wichita Trinity on Monday, the same team that ended their season in last year’s state quarterfinals.
Follow Austin on Twitter: @austin_colbert.