By AUSTIN COLBERT
From the sandy grass to the hidden valleys, playing on the Hays High School soccer field is usually an adventure. Its uneven playing surface can create unpredictable rolls and bounces, something even the Indian athletes haven't figured out despite the extensive time spent on it.
"We know at our field we can't let shots from anywhere because it might take a weird bounce like it did right there," HHS coach Saul Hernandez said. "Sometimes it works with us; sometimes it works against us. This time it didn't work for us."
It was one of these bounces that ended the Hays High girls' soccer season Thursday with a 2-1 overtime loss against Goddard-Eisenhower (13-4-1) in their Class 5A regional championship game at HHS Field.
Eisenhower's Cassidy Hardin scored the game-winning goal 47 seconds into the first overtime period when her shot, which was under hit and looked to be an easy save, took a "mad hop" over Hays High goalie Brittany Dinkel and into the net.
Hardin's goal was the first scored by either team since 15 minutes remained in the first half, and the sudden and surprising nature of the goal less than a minute into overtime put an abrupt end to the Indians' 13-4-1 season.
"No one expected us to win as many games as we did, losing as many seniors," Hernandez said. "I was proud of their accomplishments this whole season. They left it all on the field and that's all I could ask for. I'm proud of every one of them."
The win brought some solace to Eisenhower, which lost 2-1 to Hays High on this same field in the regional championship game a season ago.
"When we knew we were coming, we knew what to expect, we knew we were going to be on this wonderful grass field, and we wanted some revenge," Eisenhower coach Brandon Sommer said. "Luckily the girls were able to walk away with the plaque. Not necessarily revenge, but it feels like all is right with the world again."
Eisenhower scored the game's first goal in the 12th minute, an unassisted floater by senior Kayleigh Moore seconds after the Indians had turned the ball over following a free kick.
Despite a substantial disadvantage in time of possession, Hays High managed to tie the game in the 25th minute with a goal by freshman Talyn Kleweno, a delicate shot from inside the box set up by a perfect pass from freshman Courtney Molleker.
It was the first goal allowed by Eisenhower in seven games.
"It kind of knocked the breath out of us and we were trying to figure out how to settle down," Sommer said. "So it took us a little bit, but we finally got back to it."
The teams went to halftime tied 1-1, a score that would hold until Hardin's freak goal in the early seconds of overtime.
"We knew it was going to be a physical game. We knew it was going to be a one-goal game," Hernandez said. "Both teams left it on the field. That's a regional championship. Sometimes you need a little bit of luck, but you create your own luck. They got us this year."
Eisenhower (13-4-1) 1 0 1 -- 2
Hays High (13-4-1) 1 0 0 -- 1
First half goals
Eisenhower, Moore, 12th minute (unassisted); Hays High, Kleweno, 25th minute (Molleker).
Eisenhower, Hardin, 1st minute (unassisted).
Saves -- Ferreira/Arlt 4, Eisenhower; Dinkel 9, Hays High. Shots -- Eisenhower 11, Hays High 5.