Manhattan For the first time in four years, Free State High soccer coach Jason Pendleton had no choice but to hold the Mayo.
With standout Meredith Mayo sitting on the bench for the last 551Â¼2 minutes, Free State bowed to Manhattan, 4-0, in a Class 6A regional soccer match Tuesday evening at Anneberg Park.
"She's our best and most skilled player," Pendleton said of the Firebirds' senior midfielder. "We're a different team without her, clearly."
Mayo sat because she picked up two yellow cards within a seven-minute period during the first half. Two yellows are an automatic ejection.
"Both plays were fouls," Pendleton said, "but I didn't think they were deserving of yellow cards. It was very strange, in my opinion."
Mayo, who never had been ejected during all of her high school and club playing days, was baffled, too.
"In the past, I've never had to change my style," she said, her eyes still red following her last high school game. "I guess I should have."
Mayo was whistled the first time with 22:39 remaining in the first half. She and Manhattan's Chauna Stevens had tumbled to the turf near midfield, and the referee signaled it was the Indians' ball.
"He called the foul on me," Mayo said, "and I said, 'That's awful.'"
Immediately, the referee pulled out a yellow card, telling Pendleton he did it because Mayo had dissented.
"She didn't curse him," Pendleton said. "To give a yellow card ..."
Under the rules, Pendleton had to pull Mayo at that point, but he reinserted her with 19:15 remaining in the half. Less than four minutes later, Mayo reached and briefly grabbed a Manhattan player's jersey.
"I was frustrated for doing that," Mayo said. "Then when he reached into his pocket, my heart ... it was awful."
Yellow card No. 2 came out with 15:24 remaining in the half. Mayo's prep soccer career was over.
No other player on either team received a yellow card. Afterward, the referee declined requests from the Journal-World to comment. He also walked away when asked to give his name.
Pendleton did not know the ref. Manhattan High coach Courtney Markle knew him, but she declined to reveal his name or his hometown, other than to say he wasn't from Manhattan.
Markle did express her sympathy to Mayo afterward.
"I hate to see a senior end her season like that," Markle said. "She's a player we've had to watch for the last four years. She's very talented. But they're really cracking down on jersey-grabbing this year. They've made that a point of emphasis."
Whether Free State, which ended with a 6-11 record, would have defeated the 9-6-1 Indians even with Mayo available full-time is debatable. The Firebirds were trailing 2-0 when Mayo left. Manhattan scored again five seconds after Mayo departed on a direct free kick by Rawni Anderson. Earlier, in a similar situation, Manhattan's Meghan Hungerford booted the ball into the goal.
"The things that really hurt were the silly fouls that gave them those free kicks," Pendleton said. "But the biggest thing is we didn't play motivated for 80 minutes. With Meredith out, you have to play harder, but we packed it in."
Manhattan, which also had two goals from Stevens -- one in each half -- will play at Topeka Washburn Rural at 6 p.m. Thursday for the right to go to the Class 6A state tournament.