Despite rallying to tie the game midway into the second half, the Free State High girls soccer team came up short in a 4-3 loss Saturday to Topeka Hayden.
The Wildcats (7-4-1) were up 3-0 halfway through the first half, but the Firebirds (5-6) scored twice to close the half and added another goal early in the second.
But for Free State it was too little, too late.
"The game was lost in the first fifteen minutes," FSHS coach Jason Pendleton said. "Obviously, I feel positive about the intensity they showed after being down three goals, but we shouldn't have been in that hole to begin with."
The hole was courtesy of Hayden senior Kaylee Silovsky, whose hat trick included the game-winning goal in the 17th minute of the second half.
She helped the Wildcats five minutes in when she buried a close-range shot. Five minutes later, Silovsky's sideways kick resulted in her second goal.
"We made a lot of simple mistakes, and they punished us," Pendleton said. "They've got a lot of big, strong players."
Wildcat freshman Carrie Eaton made it 3-0 when she booted a laser four minutes later from close range, but then the Firebirds rallied.
The Firebirds' first goal came in the 16th minute after freshman Emily Erb made a quick pass to wide-open Celese Siebert, who chipped it high to the back of the net.
Six minutes later, junior Rebekah Berkley scored on a penalty kick after a Wildcat player was called for a hand ball.
The Firebirds opened the second half relentlessly pushing the ball upfield.
Their persistence paid six minutes into the half when FSHS senior Meredith Mayo kicked the ball over a sea of Hayden defenders right to Berkley, who finished the play with a well-placed kick to the right side of the net.
"Being up three goals, I told them, 'Don't let (Free State) get back in the game, and to (Free State's) credit they got back in it,'" Hayden coach Klaus Kreutzer said.
That's where the magic stopped.
Despite numerous sliding stops by senior goalkeeper Alicia Sellon, Silovsky found the net one more time with a powerful kick.
The Firebirds nearly tied the game with two minutes left when Mayo bulldozed past a few defenders and kicked the ball past the arms of Hayden keeper Molly Shea, but officials ruled the keeper had possession.
Free State plays host Monday to Leavenworth.