Roughly 15 minutes after the Free State High girls soccer team dropped a 2-0 contest to Olathe Northwest on Thursday, most of the crowd already had cleared out.
Fans had departed for the parking lot. The visiting Ravens boarded their bus. A majority of the Firebirds left, too, minus a few who mingled with friends outside the gated entrance.
It pretty much felt like a ghost town on the premises of the Free State soccer field. But the lights weren’t about to go off any time soon.
That’s because Regan Keasling stood there by herself, about 10 yards away from the goal, blasting shot after shot into the back of an empty net.
The sophomore was putting in extra work after the Firebirds misfired on a plethora of opportunities no more than an hour before. Keasling didn’t feel like exiting the field with the masses.
“This means a lot to all of us. We want to work for each other,” Keasling said. “I need to train myself to do the right thing in the box. The only thing I can do is practice to get there.”
So how long was she planning to stay on the field?
“Until it’s good. Until I’m happy with it,” Keasling said, laughing. “It’s already dark, so I’m not waiting on anything.”
What doomed Free State on Thursday was the final step in putting points on the board — shots near the goal. The Firebirds’ energy was fine, their defense was solid and their passing was crisp. They just couldn’t convert.
At the 10:40 mark in the second half, for instance, Keasling received a pass off a direct free kick near midfield. The ball trickled past ONW defenders and into the space of Keasling. She blasted away from about 15 yards out, but the ball sailed over the net.
Free State (0-2-1) had 12 shots on goal, but came up empty.
“It’s like someone has played a trick on us and placed a cellophane layer in front of the goal,” Free State coach Jason Pendleton said. “It’s a bad party trick, and we’re not having much fun with it at this point. We’re doing a lot of positive things. We’re just not doing the one thing that allows you to ultimately win games, and that’s put it in the back of the net.”
Both goals from the Ravens (2-3) came within a one-minute span in the first half.
O-Northwest’s Allison Haddad scored the first goal at 27:18 off of a direct free kick. Taylor Faulkner found the back of the net at 26:40 on the Ravens’ next possession.
Other than that, FSHS was busy much of the game with the ball on the O-Northwest portion of the field.
“We just need a focus and drive to want to score,” FSHS senior Hannah Carlson said. “Fundamentally, I think coach is happy with our play. It’s just that last set, that last point isn’t there. I’m really confident we can get there. We score in practice. In games, I don’t know if we freak out or what, but I’m confident once we get rolling, we’ll get a few under our belt.”
Despite scoring only one goal in three games, Pendleton noticed a collective desire from his players to improve. That much was obvious in seeing Keasling stick around awhile after the game.
“I think that’s a testament to the type of kids we have, who are trying to get better and put the ball in the back of the net,” Pendleton said.