Beeley’s goal sends Firebirds past Lansing

Free State High freshman Sydni Beeley saw the clock running down in overtime on Friday against Lansing and knew she had to take a chance.

With under five minutes left in the first overtime, the fearless defenseman drilled a free kick over the outstretched arms of Lansing’s goalkeeper in front of the back post to give the Firebirds a 1-0 victory in their home opener.

Lansing controlled the ball for the majority of overtime and unleashed a flurry of shots. But Free State sophomore forward Chandler Wiggins gave the Firebirds their first strong opportunity past midfield, sprinting toward the net before getting knocked over by a defender and drawing a foul outside of the 18-yard box.

Early in the game, Beeley had a free kick from about the same spot on the field, but she hit a soft shot right to the keeper. This time she made sure to get more power behind it, and she scored the first goal of her varsity career before getting mobbed by teammates and later some classmates.

“I was just like, ‘All right, we have (four) minutes left, and I really need to make this,” Beeley said. “I just went for it.”

The Lions (4-2) outshot the Firebirds on net, 11-7, and had eight corner kicks. But nearly every time Lansing looked on the verge of a score, FSHS junior goalkeeper Mika Schrader was there to make a stop for her first shutout of year.

In the opening minutes, Lansing nearly scored when one shot bounced off Shrader’s hands, and freshman midfielder Maya Hodison sent the ball flying out of bounds before the Lions could knock in an open rebound. The Lions also had a goal disallowed because of an offsides call.

“It’s just how it always is. You have to do what you’ve got to do,” Schrader said. “Sometimes there’s more shots, but you don’t really think about it. You just do what you need to do to help your team out.”

Free State’s bend-but-don’t-break defense gave up more open shots than it wanted, but defenders Brooke Hayes, Molly Bryant, Kate Odgers and Lindsey Wethington kept the Lions from sneaking behind them for strong chances. Beeley, Allyson Hertig and Maria Ellebracht also had some strong defensive plays.

“It wasn’t necessarily because of our lack of a good defensive shape,” FSHS coach Kelly Barah said of Lansing’s opportunities. “I just think we played with a little bit more drag today, and I truly don’t understand why.”

The Firebirds (2-2) changed some of their alignment on offense and knew it was going to take some time to sync up. But their passing wasn’t crisp and didn’t allow the Firebirds to control possession and work the ball up the field the way they hoped.

“I just think our lack of physicality was something that we haven’t seen from the group, so we’re going to try to address some of that,” Barah said.

Freshman forward Emma Stramberg showed off her speed for a few offensive opportunities, and senior midfielder Hannah Reussner had some good feeds to her teammates. Freshman Regan Sullivan and sophomore Sabrea Platz also helped set up strong chances.

Similar to her play in overtime to set up the game-winning goal, Wiggins used her quickness to create a breakaway in the first half and was knocked down by a defender, drawing a yellow card.

The Firebirds have a lot of young players in big roles, but Barah wants to shed the ‘young team’ label so they can just focus on becoming a strong all-around soccer team.

“So far our team has a lot of heart,” Beeley said. “We have a lot of technical stuff to work on, but it’s going to be a fun year once we get it worked out.”

The Firebirds will face Shawnee Mission North at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at FSHS.