A frustrating turn of events for Free State High's girls soccer team turned out to be the difference in defeat.
Trailing Shawnee Mission North 1-0 early in the second half, Free State freshman Katy Vormehr just missed tying the game by inches as her blast from about 15 yards away sailed over the crossbar.
Within a minute SM North's Susie Bethel gave her team a 2-0 lead and the Indians went on to hold off the Firebirds for a 3-1 victory Wednesday at the FSHS field.
"That was the turning point," SM North coach Steve Collins said of the Firebirds' near-goal, "and that ball wasn't half-a-width over. It may have possibly even clipped (the crossbar). It was that close. We dodged a bullet."
After surviving the Firebirds' shot, the Indians moved the ball downfield and capitalized when Free State senior goalkeeper Marie Keplinger misplayed a ball, leaving Bethel with a wide-open goal in the 43th minute
"We talked about it at halftime," Collins said. "That next goal was so important and the momentum would switch to the team that got the next goal. Fortunately, it was us. We were lucky."
Free State (0-10-1) trailed 1-0 at intermission as SM North (4-7) scored in the fourth minute when Molly Weiterman was able to knock a loose ball past Keplinger during a scramble in front of the net.
"I felt like that they were really pumped up. They were ready to go," FSHS coach Phil Lee said of the Firebirds. "Then as soon as they gave up that first goal, their heads were down. I tried to keep them up, tried to keep them positive. We're going through a difficult stretch, but I think they're going to keep their heads up.
"They're still having fun, which is what we talked about (Tuesday), making sure that they're having fun and not letting the scoreboard dictate the amount of fun that they have."
Free State never quit, though, and even denied SM North's bid for a shutout in the closing minutes. After Vormehr was brought down inside the penalty box, fellow freshman Morgan Matthews converted the penalty kick by putting the ball in the lower left corner.
For her troubles, Vormehr received the team's player of the game award -- and an ice pack for a sore hamstring caused by the foul.
"We need to step up the intensity more," Vormehr said of the team's goals for the remainder of the season. "We need to score, win and beat LHS."
The intracity showdown against Lawrence High is May 13 at the Youth Sports Inc. fields. Before then, though, Free State will travel today to Olathe South to play a make-up game from April 5.
-- Robert Sinclair's phone message number is 832-7185. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.