Shawnee Mission Northwest goalkeeper Chloe Weishaar grew hoarse in the final minutes Tuesday night at Free State High as she screamed imploringly at her teammates.
“Away,” the Cougars senior keeper repeated, as the Firebirds desperately scrambled to create a game-tying shot opportunity. Weishaar just wanted someone from SMNW to send the ball away from the north end of the field as the clock winded down.
Finally, after a corner kick from Free State’s Lexi Brady bounced in front of the goal line, SMNW junior defender Jennifer Smith answered the goalie’s cries by clearing the ball in the final 20 seconds, allowing the Cougars to escape with a 2-1 road victory.
The loss, Free State’s third in five games, stung more than most, because it was Senior Night for Abbey Casady, Chelsea Casady, Madeline Caywood and Rylee Fuerst. The tears started with a pre-game locker room talk from coach Kelly Barah, reappeared at halftime as the four players were recognized for their service to the program and continued after the loss to SMNW (7-7-1).
Fuerst said the Firebirds (8-6) knew they needed to stay focused, but it proved to be a struggle.
“We fell short, but we sure tried,” the senior defender said.
In fact, Caywood thought the emotions helped FSHS at times.
“In the second half, I think we really showed up better than in the end of the first half,” she said.
Free State trailed 2-1 at the break after Northwest’s Meghan Haun scored on a pass from Emily Peterson, and Mikala Modiri won a loose ball from Firebirds keeper Annie Hierl and put it in an open goal.
The Firebirds out-shot SMNW 11-3 in the final 40 minutes, putting six shots on goal. But tries from Jessica Ferguson, Kaitlin Dunbar, Maddie Dieker and Brady didn’t get past Weishaar. FSHS totaled 19 shots to the Cougars’ 11 in the loss. Hierl had five saves, while Weishaar denied 11 shots.
“Today after their first goal,” Caywood said, “it was really hard to come back, and we just have to work on getting back in the game.”
The Casady twins left the game in the 54th minute, unaware of whether their teammates would be able to pull off a comeback. Abbey and Chelsea hustled south across campus as the game went on in order to take part in the Senior Recognition Choral Concert.
Barah had nothing but praises for his seniors: “These are young ladies who are amazing off and on the field and do so many great things.”
In the eighth minute, Chelsea Casady intercepted a pass and moved the ball ahead to her twin sister near the right corner. Abbey put the ball into the upper left corner for a temporary FSHS lead.
With the choir members leaving early, Fuerst said the Firebirds hoped to greet them with news of a win after the concert.
“We could’ve done better,” a saddened Fuerst said. “We can hope that we get a game in the playoffs on our home turf so this isn’t the way we leave.”
The Firebirds’ regular season wraps up Thursday at Topeka Hayden.