Free State High soccer keeper Elena Auer likely had the most obstructed view on the field, but even she thought Margaux Gill’s shot was headed straight for the back of the net.
With only a few minutes remaining in the game and the Firebirds trailing by a goal, Gill blasted a shot that beat Shawnee Mission West keeper Jenny Allin on her short side.
But the shot didn’t find the net; it clanked off the inside of the left post and caromed harmlessly away.
It was the last good look the Firebirds would get, leaving them just short in a 2-1 defeat to SMW on a cold, rainy Thursday night at FSHS.
“I was jumping, ready to cheer for her,” Auer said. “But then it didn’t happen.”
“We thought the game was going to overtime,” FSHS coach Kelly Barah said. “It’s a post here, and a missed shot there, and maybe it’s a different story right now.”
There weren’t many heads hung on the Firebird side following the close setback to the Vikings (8-1-1), perennially one of the top teams in Class 6A.
“We knew we had to play our A-game, and today we did that,” Barah said. “Maybe it was an A-minus, who knows, but we definitely showed ourselves that we can hang with the best out there.”
FSHS (5-3) fought SMW to a standstill in a slow-paced first half, which was marked by solid defense on the back end and an excellent diving save by Auer, one of her eight stops on the night.
Junior Kylee Loneker put the Firebirds ahead with a nifty shot.
Five minutes into the second half and from about 40 yards out, Loneker bombed a free kick high into the air and arced it just above Allin’s fingertips and into the net.
“Nothing had been going in,” Loneker said. “The worst thing that could have happened is it could have gone out of bounds. I figured I might as well take it.”
SMW eventually netted the go-ahead goal — a strike by Sydney Miramontez with five minutes left — and held on after surviving Gill’s near equalizer.