Wichita Trinity’s soccer team refused to lose.
Buhler High built a two-goal lead three times on the Knights, who kept rallying at Wheatland Park. The Knights capped a four-goal second half on Ryan Miller’s game-winner for a stunning 5-4 victory in a Class 4-1A soccer regional.
“It makes me feel great,” said Miller, who had never scored a varsity game-winner. “We kept falling behind, but each time we scored a goal, we got a spark.”
Trinity’s Emery May lofted a perfect corner kick that Miller headed past backup goalie Colby Dinwiddie with 4:12 left in regulation a moment after Dinwiddie made a game-tying save.
May, a freshman, sparked the rally defensively and offensively while Miller provided the finishing touch on two goals. The Knights’ defense denied the Crusaders any scoring chances in the final minutes.
Trinity coach Tom Nykamp said the Knights’ victory was reminiscent of their 1-0 upset two years against St. James Academy in the Class 4A state semifinals. Trinity captured the 2010 state championship by upsetting Rose Hill 1-0.
“That ranks right up as one of the top comebacks we’ve ever had,” said Nykamp. “Ryan Miller carried us.”
The Knights play a schedule full of Class 6A and 5A teams, which helps prepare them for 4A post-season play.
“That is why we play the hard games,” Nykamp said. “We’ve learned to battle. We schedule a lot of 6A and 5A teams, so we're used to playing from behind."
The Knights (6-10-1) advance to Friday’s regional final against Rose Hill (13-4). Buhler (11-6) had much loftier goals spoiled. While the Knights celebrated the upset, the Crusaders were forced to console each other.
"I feel really bad because the seniors worked so hard for four years," said Buhler coach Tim Harris. "Their goal was to get to state and win state.”
Harris said it was difficult to see his seniors finish on a sour note.
On the same play the Knights tied the game, Crusader starting goalie Tyler Maxwell was sidelined after a kick in his head opened a gash. The Crusaders’ all-time leading scorer Bransyn Felty was also sidelined for the final 10 minutes on a leg injury after getting kicked.
Trinity’s Joshua Snodgrass ignited the Knights’ charge with a goal nine minutes into the second half. Just as quickly, Alex Darrow’s goal with 26:10 left handed the Crusaders a 4-2 lead.
The Knights kept the offensive pressure on and Miller beat Buhler’s defense with 16:31 left in regulation for a 4-3 score.
Buhler dominated possession in the first half with a quick 2-0 lead that was 3-1 at halftime keyed by a brisk southerly wind.
Brandon Lang set an aggressive style with a scoring blast from 25 yards that beat Trinity goalie Landon Kaye at the 32:56 mark. The Crusaders kept the pressure, mostly in quick transition off a sharp passing game.
Felty converted his 32nd goal of the season at the 28:49 mark after teammate Alex Darrow controlled the ball in front of the Trinity goal for a 2-0 lead.
The Knights made Buhler pay for a defensive lapse when John Patrick Long beat the defense and booted a left-footed goal past Maxwell. The Knights had several other scoring chances off corner kicks. Miller nearly scored a restart after a foul.
Joe Warner closed the half on Buhler’s third goal at the 4:52 mark when Kaye was unable to control a hard shot by Felty.