FSHS soccer fired up for Rural

Free State High’s girls soccer players know plenty about their regional championship opponent, Topeka Washburn Rural.

The Blues beat the Firebirds, 4-1, in the regional championship last year, and none of Free State’s returning players have forgotten.

The Firebirds (11-6) will play at Washburn Rural (15-2) at 6 tonight.

“I think we’re still a little salty about it,” senior goalkeeper Annie Hierl said. “We know the score didn’t really dictate how the game went last year. …I think that we’re going in there pretty evenly matched, and so it’ll be a fun game to see what happens. It’s going to be really good and close.”

“The bad feeling and the bad taste from last year, all these girls remember that,” FSHS coach Kelly Barah added. “Hopefully we have that working for us this year with all those 17 seniors who were all on the team last year when it happened.”

After suffering two losses at the beginning of the month, the Firebirds have won three straight games. They beat Wichita South, 4-0, in the first round of regionals Monday.

“The last few games we’ve stepped it up, and I think our consistency is at an all-time high right now,” senior defender Olivia Hodison said. “Going into this game, I’m pretty confident that we can play well.”

Despite a solid performance by the entire team in Monday’s victory, the Firebirds still weren’t completely happy with the way they played. They felt there were more chances to score, which they didn’t convert, and they spent Wednesday’s practice working to improve their attacks.

“I think that’s always important to never be satisfied,” said Hodison, a University of Missouri-Kansas City signee. “I think we did play well. We should’ve had a few more goals, but I think that kind of sets us up for the next game to be even hungrier for goals.”

The defensive core of Hodison, Hanna Heline and Allix Ice has dominated during the three-game winning streak, making it easier for Hierl in net, who has allowed just one goal in that span.

“We think we’re playing really well right now,” Barah said. “We’re going in with confidence, but we know Washburn is a good and great team. Heck, they beat us last year, and so we’re expecting a really good game, and we’ll give it our best.”