With a 2-0 sweep of its tour through Wichita, St. Thomas Aquinas has pinned itself as the team to beat in 5A.
The Saints showed no signs of exhaustion stemming from a workhorse overtime victory over Bishop Carroll only 17 hours earlier, dominating Kapaun Mt. Carmel on Saturday, 8-0.
“This game did not go in any way how I expected it to go, honestly,” said Craig Ewing, Aquinas head coach. “I was surprised we were able to be so effective, since we just played last night. I think Kapaun is a good squad. I thought it was close early, where they missed a couple shots that could have made it 3-2 at half, honestly.”
The Crusaders (9-4) needed to capitalize on rare offensive opportunities to keep up with Aquinas (9-4-1), the two-time defending state champions. That was not to be.
Kapaun's Courtney Gahagan created the best chances, drilling a shot to force a diving stop from the Saints’ goalkeeper. Moments later, another attempt from Gahagan scooted just wide.
While Kapaun’s offense stalled, Aquinas revved up. Goals from Julie Bride and Jill Carroll extended Aquinas’ advantage to 3-0 at halftime.
Taylor Kruse gave Kapaun another scoring opportunity with a breakaway attempt four minutes into the second half, but again, a dive from an outstretched goalie turned her away. Aquinas’ goalkeeper tandem of Natalie Kutney and Ellen Loughman was resilient the entire game.
“We were really excited to play, because me and her, we just came off of a shutout,” Loughman said. “That gets us pumped up for the next game.”
Kapaun’s opportunities soon turned against it. A corner kick for the Crusaders bounced toward Aquinas’ Hannah Pyle. Pyle dribbled the length of the field, using deft touch to place the ball just over Kapaun keeper Laurel Lujano’s head and into the net for a 4-0 lead.
“It’s kind of like a forward’s dream, to get the counterattack off of a corner,” Pyle said. “I just saw that the goalie was coming high, and I know that she likes to play high, because I met her at KU camp.”
From there, Aquinas attacked while Kapaun’s defense bent. Goals from Annie Poelzl, Jamie Kutey, Bride and Adrienne Lister broke the game open to an 8-0 margin.
“Last night, I think our problem was we were playing a lot of balls over our forwards and outside mids. Today, we tried to keep it on the ground a lot more and possess,” Pyle said. “We knew we wanted to come and get a lot of goals to make up for scoring one last night. We felt we got that today.”
The weekend sweep has swung the class 5A momentum back in Aquinas’ favor.
“I think we figured out what we’re doing, and we’re connecting together as a team,” Loughman said. “I think we’re improving ourselves a lot, but I still think we need to work on some stuff just to make it all fine-tune, so we’ll be ready for state.”