By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The big moment felt like a blur to Kickapoo freshman Sage Meek.
But she was able to deliver on time, finishing off a wild, exhausting and sometimes painful 80 minutes of playoff soccer.
The Lady Chiefs prevailed 5-4 over Blue Springs South at home on Saturday in the Class 4 girls’ state quarterfinals. In a second half that saw six goals, Kickapoo emerged victorious with Meek’s late game-winner.
She scored the decisive goal in the 75th minute off a pass from sophomore forward Ellie Davison.
“I don’t even remember running down the field for her. I was exhausted,” Meek said. “I was just kind of there. The ball came to my feet and I hit it. I was surprised it went in, honestly.”
Davison beat her defender on the other side and placed a crosser to the back post.
Meek was right there to finish it.
“I saw (Sage) run in and I was just kind of hoping she’d be there on the back post,” Davison said. “What a goal by her.”
The assist capped a big day for Davison, a sophomore forward and Kickapoo’s leading goal scorer this season.
She was the star of the match, finishing with a hat trick in addition to setting up Meek’s game-winner.
Davison’s favorite of the bunch? Her leaping one-timer off a direct kick from sophomore Faith Joe late in the first half.
“I got a really good touch on it,” Davison said. “I was surprised how well I struck it.”
The victory sends Kickapoo girls’ soccer to state for the first time since 2002, and just the second time overall.
“Every year of my career, we’ve been so close,” said Kickapoo senior defender and co-captain Julia Klein. “We’ve been fighting for this. I’m just glad we did it. Finally.”
Kickapoo (22-5-1 overall) will face undefeated Liberty North (20-0 overall) in the Class 4 state semifinals next week. The two teams will play at 7 p.m. on Friday, June 2 at World Wide Technology Soccer Park in Fenton.
Nerinx Hall (18-2 overall) will play Liberty (Wentzville) or Lafayette (Wildwood) at 4 p.m. in the other Class 4 semifinal.
Kickapoo coach Phil Hodge said he had to fight back tears in his pregame discussion with the team on Saturday.
“I told them about how special of a group this is. We talked about if it ends today, the mark they’ve left on our program will endure,” Hodge said. “They deserve to be playing next weekend. We’ve gone through adversity with Abby Bilbao, a good leader and good player for us, tearing her ACL. They’re all good kids.”
The Davison-to-Meek game-winner in the waning minutes almost didn’t happen.
Meek was subbed out after taking a shot to the face. She returned to the match just moments before her goal.
“We don’t sub a lot, but she got hit in the face with a ball,” Hodge said. “We knew our best chance to score a goal was to have her on the field. I looked at (Sage) and said, ‘If you’ve caught your breath, let’s go and get you back out there.’
“Credit Ellie for making the play, finding space and putting a great ball across to Sage. That’s what we work on all the time. It’s nice when it comes to fruition.”
Kickapoo led 2-1 at halftime, but the Lady Chiefs left multiple scoring opportunities on the table including two point-blank rebounds in front of the net.
“That was unfortunate because I really thought we had a good first half,” Hodge said. “But we had a lot of chances we didn’t capitalize on, and then we found ourselves in a situation where maybe we weren’t ahead by as much as we should have been.”
Blue Springs South (13-9-1 overall) seized control to start the second half. The Lady Jaguars scored twice in the opening five minutes to take a 3-2 lead.
“Credit Blue Springs South… they humbled us in a heartbeat,” Hodge said.
Added Klein: “We came in a little too confident that second half and gave up two bad goals. But we’ve been a comeback team throughout this season. We all knew we could do it again.”
Kickapoo found an answer in the form of Davison, who scored her second (48’) and third goals (60’) of the match to put Kickapoo back in front. On the second goal, Davison beat the Blue Springs South goalkeeper to a 50-50 ball and finished on an empty net.
Blue Springs South tied the match for the third time on the day with a penalty kick goal in the 68th minute.
“I was like, ‘Do we have it? Do we not have it? It was an emotional roller coaster,” Klein said of the back-and-forth second half.
Kickapoo will enter next weekend’s state championships riding a 14-game winning streak. The Lady Chiefs are 19-1 overall since April 3.
Kickapoo 5, Blue Springs South 4
Kickapoo 2 3 — 5
Blue Springs South 1 3 — 4
Kickapoo – Taylor Akers (25’)
Blue Springs South – Haley Cramer (’32)
Kickapoo – Ellie Davison (35’); Faith Joe assist
Blue Springs South – Gwen Maggard (42’)
Blue Springs South – Mary Hoffman (44’)
Kickapoo – Ellie Davison (48’)
Kickapoo – Davison (60’); Sage Meek assist
Blue Springs South – Maggard PK (68’)
Kickapoo – Meek (75’); Davison assist