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High School Sports

High School Sports

Firebirds hope for first trip to state soccer semis

November 3, 2009

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BV West at Free State

What: Class 6A state quarterfinal

When: 6 tonight

Where: Free State High

Records: Free State 14-4; Blue Valley West 13-5

Although the Free State High boys soccer team has advanced to the Class 6A state quarterfinals just twice in 13 seasons of existence, Firebirds coach Jason Pendleton has a simple formula for what it will take for his team to advance to its first Final Four in school history.

“At this point in the season, it’s about doing what you do as a team as well as possible and minimizing your mistakes,” Pendleton said. “Hopefully, from an organizational standpoint, you’re where you’re supposed to be at all times, and you’re executing.”

Sounds simple. Advancing certainly won’t be, as the Firebirds (14-4) will play host to Blue Valley West (13-5) at 6 tonight, with a spot in the state semis on the line.

Although the Firebirds have enjoyed arguably their most successful season in school history, none of the 14 wins that have come prior to tonight matters much right now.

“I honestly think we can go farther than just past the regional championship game,” senior forward Daniel Chance said. “Anything can happen in postseason. And as long as we come out and play hard, we’ll have a chance to win.”

The Firebirds advanced to this point by blanking both Junction City (4-0) and Manhattan (1-0) to win their regional. It marks the third time in school history that the program has won a regional title. Free State also accomplished the feat in 2001 and 2005.

In both of those seasons, however, the Firebirds were ousted in the quarterfinals. In 2001, Free State fell to Shawnee Mission South. In 2005, they lost in double-overtime to eventual state champion Olathe East.

Standing in the Firebirds’ way of a first-ever trip to the semifinals is Blue Valley West. The Jaguars advanced to the quarterfinals with regional victories against Shawnee Mission East (4-3) and Blue Valley North (2-1).

Tonight’s meeting will be the first between these two schools in boys soccer, something that Chance thinks is a positive.

“I think that’s a lot better, especially for our team,” he said. “Then we can just come out and play our game no matter who the opponent’s going to be.”

Fellow senior Alan Hornbaker said he was not concerned with the opponent, where the game would be played or what the weather conditions might be like.

“We just don’t want to get scored on,” Hornbaker said. “That’s the only thing on my mind right now, not getting scored on. We don’t really have anything to lose and have everything to gain. There’s no easy game on the way to the semifinals.”

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