For the first 40 minutes against Olathe North, the Firebirds fluttered.
In the second 40 minutes, Free State High sputtered as it never attempted a shot on goal during a 4-2 girls soccer loss to the Eagles on Thursday at Youth Sports Inc. fields.
"We played good soccer in the first half," FSHS coach Jason Pendleton said. "In the second half we were kind of under the gun a little a bit. Instead of playing to peoples' feet, getting our heads up and making the simple passes, we got into a game of kickball. That's not going to be successful in the Sunflower League against any team."
Free State, 3-8-1, appeared to have momentum heading into the second half. Sophomore forward Morgan Matthews scored in the 39th minute following an assist from junior Melissa Garcia for a 2-2 tie.
The Eagles, though, controlled the entire second half when they outshot the Firebirds 7-0. O-North senior Amy Mauriello scored the go-ahead goal in the 58th minute and Eagle sophomore Shannen Taylor followed with a goal, set up by a corner kick, in the 66th minute as the Firebirds failed to win for the seventh consecutive game.
"They had beaten us 9-0 two years in a row so we feel good about playing with them," Pendleton said. "We need to be more consistent at playing good soccer. Over the last four or five games, we've shown improvement despite the losses.
"We have to put a whole game together. We're getting better. It's frustrating because when you're getting better and building a program it's not visible through wins or losses. We feel we have some games left that we're going to win."
Matthews, who leads Free State with nine goals for the season, scored both of the Firebirds' goals against O-North.
In the seventh minute, Matthews had her back to the goal, faked left, spun to her right and with her left foot booted the ball into the lower left corner of the net.
"I've been telling her to have faith in her left foot all year," Pendleton said. "That's something I've been harping on her. She can use it, but she doesn't have much confidence in it."
Said Matthews of the goal, "I was surprised. I turned and shot and something good came out of it."
O-North, which failed to connect on its first six shots in the first half, struck with two goals in a 16-second span. First, freshman Meagan Horvath scored on a penalty kick with 10:03 left in the first half. Mauriello followed with a goal at 9:47.
"It seems like our goals this year have come in bunches," said North coach Macey Miles, whose Eagles have won four of their past five with that one loss coming to top-ranked Olathe East on Tuesday.
Next for Free State is a road game at Leavenworth on Monday.