Free State girls soccer drops Topeka-Hayden match 2-1

photo by: Conner Becker

Free State senior defender Ella McCleary looks for an open teammate against Topeka-Hayden junior forward Jill Lenherr in a 2-1 loss to the Wildcats on March 27, 2023 at Free State High School.

In a game where every goal was scored within just four minutes, the Free State girls soccer team fell short to Topeka-Hayden 2-1 at home on Monday night.

Free State (0-2) played hard defense right from the kickoff, holding the Wildcats to a single shot by senior defender Noelia Cruz late in the first period. The Firebirds rattled off four shot attempts before halftime – all thwarted by Hayden freshman keeper Lauren Borjon.

Free State coach Joe Waldron said the tight start by his defenders made him feel comfortable throughout most of the first period.

“In the second half, we came out and did not continue to do that,” Waldron said. “We let them be first to the 50/50 balls, we let them set up shop on our end of the field and kind of pin us. Before you knew it, the balance of the game was in front of our own goal.”

Sophomore forward Neylana Haque found herself in scoring position for the Firebirds twice within the first 10 minutes of the game, hammering the right post searching for an open shot. The first shot for Free State came from junior midfielder Shelby Roberts, who targeted the top of the goal at the 21-minute mark.

Hayden senior Sloane Sims drew a penalty kick off Free State sophomore midfielder Taylor Woods with 13 minutes left in the first period. Sims’ kick entered dangerous territory for a moment until Free State freshman forward Riley Prier cleared the ball free.

The Wildcats, after remaining silent offensively for 40 minutes, entered the second period as the aggressor. Hayden senior midfielder Briahna Barnett scored the first goal of the game, a shot from deep right, with 24 minutes left in the second period.

Keeping Hayden dormant for the entire first period, Free State sophomore goalkeeper Merrit Hale had far more face time with Hayden’s forwards in the second period than the first. Waldron was proud of Hale’s willingness to stick with it through the dirtiest phases of the match.

“I didn’t think our back four played well,” Waldron said about Hale’s surrounding defense. “And, once again, we didn’t generate a lot of offense going forward. First half we had more chances, but overall we didn’t play enough soccer on their end.”

Free State responded just three minutes later, as Haque knotted things up at 1-1 on a short-range goal. The score let the Firebirds’ guard down, though, as Hayden switched the field and reclaimed the lead almost instantly when Wildcats senior midfielder Jenessa Broxterman slipped another one past Hale.

Even with 20 minutes to get a clean shot off, the best opportunity Free State got came too late in the second period. Facing just two minutes left on the clock, a touch by Free State senior forward Maddie Powell was disrupted and cleared by the Hayden defense – squashing one last chance of adding extra time.

“We talked about making some adjustments, playing the ball quicker and moving it faster,” Waldron said after his postgame meeting with the team. “It’s creating a lot of opportunities to break down some defenders and we didn’t really do that.”


Free State 0 1 – 1

Topeka-Hayden 0 2 – 2

SHOTS: Free State 7 (1H – 4, 2H – 3); Hayden 7 (1H – 1; 2H – 6).

SAVES: Free State – Hale 5; Hayden – Borjon 6.


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