WICHITA, Kan.—Sometimes, big games can find a way of making heroes out of the most unlikely characters. In Kapaun Mt. Carmel’s 1-0 win over Wichita Trinity, it was a sophomore in the right place at the right time to give the Crusaders the only goal of the game with nine and a half minutes left in regulation.
“I was just kind of there,” said Hayley Shepherd of her game winner. “I wasn’t really planning on it coming to me, like to score, but when it was there, I knew I could shoot from the top of the box. I just took the shot.”
Off a free kick for Kapaun, the ball ricocheted off some bodies in the box and bounced right to Shepherd’s boot. Without hesitation, the underclassman ripped off a shot that found a home in the upper-left corner.
“I had one goal in the Titan Classic,” said Shepherd, “but that was just a little kick in. This is actually like my first real goal. Even though I’m a sophomore, it is my first real Kapaun goal.”
In a matchup between two No. 5-ranked teams, Kapaun in 5A and Trinity in 4A, tensions were high with every win leading to valuable positioning going into regional tournaments. Both teams pushed hard to pocket a victory.
In the first half, the Knights took advantage of a strong tailwind to get some chances on the net. But Kapaun keeper Laurel Lujano was up to the task.
“Laurel is just a great athlete,” said Kapaun head coach Alan Shepherd. “She is a great goalkeeper. She’s not even really a goalkeeper, she is a field player really that just out of the goodness of her heart will step into goal for us. She will do anything for our team. She played off her line a little bit to take away those long balls they were playing though and she did a good job with that.”
The Crusaders were not without scoring chances of their own, including a centering pass that just went outside the post on a left-footed shot.
But for all Kapaun’s possession and pressure on the net, Trinity’s defense sucked in to keep Kapaun off the board and relied on keeper Allie Ruschen to take care of the rest.
In the second half, Kapaun once again controlled the possession, while Trinity waited for more opportunities to land a counter punch.
With neither team giving in, and the clock ticking down, it had the feel of a golden goal type of game, whether in overtime, or in the waning minutes.
But before the game made it to sudden death, Shepherd found the game on her feet, and didn’t waste the chance.
A turnover in the middle of the field on a goal kick nearly proved disastrous for the Crusaders, but Trinity couldn’t find the back of the net on its best opportunity to tie the game.
“I didn’t think it was going to go in,” said Shepherd. “I thought it was going to go over, honestly. But then it just kind of curved down and went right in.”