MAIZE, Kan. - This one was for Coach Ramirez.
Rey Ramirez is a big figure in the Wichita soccer scene. But it was something about this round that thwarted his teams. Not only as a coach, but a player too. The furthest he had ever made it was the quarterfinal round, the round his Mavericks found themselves in Tuesday night.
But behind a high scoring sophomore, the Mavs wouldn't find themselves in that spot again.
In the first half, the Mavericks were right there on the doorstep for what felt like the entire opening 30 minutes. Great Bend keeper Alberto Hernandez Leyva was on the ball, and his defenders were right there covering the net with him. But then junior Cooper Joseph chipped the ball right in front of the defense, finding Landon Eskridge for the diving header to give the Mavs a 1-0 advantage.
"We knew we were the better team going out--when it went in it felt great to put it away," said Eskridge.
30 minutes later, Eskridge did it again. After three missed chances near the goal, another senior fed the sophomore, with Nikkolas VIchith finding Eskridge to double it up, making the score 2-0
"[Landon] really stepped up and filled some of that huge void that we lost with Raul Gerhardus," said Ramirez. Gerhardus, another sophomore, lead the Mavericks in scoring before going down with a season ending injury earlier in the month.
The Mavericks would concede a goal in the final 10 before junior James Evans punched in another header, giving Maize South a 3-1 quarterfinal win in front of their home fans.
"It's gonna take awhile for this to settle in," said senior captain Spencer Steinhoff, "probably once we get to Topeka I'll realize this is for real."
"These boys have worked so hard. We look forward to what's to come throughout this upcoming weekend and the rest of the season," said Ramirez.
Up next for Maize South is St. James Academy, a team that enters with a 10-8-1 mark. The last time St. James made it to State with 8 losses, they won the title in 2016.
--Bishop Carroll and Kapaun played a classic in the other area 5A quarterfinal. Kapaun got the Holy War started with an early goal from Corbin Mai, giving them a 1-0 lead that they kept for a majority of the match. That was until Brad Huslig buried the equalizer with under two minutes to play, leveling the rubber match between the two rivals. The match would go to double overtime when Tyler Griffin sent home the game winner, sending the Golden Eagles back to state for a third straight season. A year ago, Carroll fell in the title match 1-0 to Blue Valley Southwest, the team they will face Friday with the title match berth on the line.
--In Class 6A, Ethan Hill came away with the lone goal in Derby's match with Washburn Rural to send the Panthers to the semifinals. Rural entered the match with a lone loss on the year. Derby will match up with Olathe East Friday, while Manhattan will face Shawnee Mission East in the other semifinal. The Indians held on to send Dodge City home, taking the match 4-3.
--Finally in 4-1A, Buhler got its third straight playoff shutout, blanking Winfield 3-0. They'll take on Kansas City Christian in one match Friday, while Hays-TMP will take on Bishop Miege in the other semifinal. Miege is after a third straight title in 4-1A.
SOCCER FINAL FOUR
(1) Manhattan vs (2) Shawnee Mission East
(1) Olathe East vs (2) Derby
(1) Maize South vs (2) St. James Academy
(1) Blue Valley Southwest vs (2) Bishop Carroll
(1) Buhler vs (2) Kansas City Christian
(1) Bishop Miege vs (2) Thomas More Prep