Exceeding expectations

Despite relatively low expectations at the beginning of the season, the varsity boys’ soccer team rode a late-season wave of momentum to secure the third place trophy at the state tournament.

It was an electrifying feeling. Everybody knew the game was over; it was only a matter of time. The Cougars had a 2-1 lead over the number one seed Olathe South Falcons with only seconds left on the clock. Senior Lippi Souza started his victory sprint toward the packed Cougar faithful fan section, tearing off his jersey. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, a Falcon player fell to his knees in disbelief, realizing that his hopes of a state championship had been squashed by the one team that nobody thought stood a chance, the team that continued to defy all expectations.

Bonsignore2That seemed to be the theme all year for the Cougars­ — never say never. During summer conditioning, it seemed as though there was an air of uncertainty hovering around the upcoming season; who were going to be the leaders this year? Who was going to step up to fill the shoes of the many seniors that were lost from last year?

“With the group of guys we lost last year, we were just wondering if these guys were going to be able to step up and fill their shoes,” coach Todd Boren said.

After losing an overtime battle to the nationally ranked Rockhurst Hawklets on Sept. 28, the team dropped two more games and seemed to have lost its way.

“You know, that was kind of gut-check time right there,” Boren said. “That was going to be the time that the season was either going to completely implode, or we were going to try to screw our heads back on and get after it.”

The team came together and decided that they would not let the season go down in the record books as a failure. On their way to a third place finish at state, the Cougars upset two number one seeds­­ — Olathe East in regionals 1-0 and Olathe South in the quarterfinals.

“We really came together as a team and realized that we had the potential to be really good,” junior Kyle Moore said.

Throughout the season, and well into the postseason, the NW fans gave a huge boost to the Cougars. At almost every game, the designated fan section spilled over into the rest of the bleachers. The NW fans outnumbered opponents’ fan sections.

Bonsignore19“It was really fun going to the games this year. I loved going; there were always tons of people there,” senior Tyler Amble said. “As a fan you could kind of feel the team’s momentum. Every time the team won, we would all go crazy. It was awesome.”

Going into the season, the expectations had been relatively low, which may have contributed to the team’s success. After a shaky start to the season that left the team with a losing record, 5-6, a 7-0 win against SM South sparked a surge of momentum that would carry the boys to the end of the season.

After upsetting the number- one-seeded Falcons, the Cougars went on to the state semifinals to play Washburn Rural High School. Washburn was 17-1 at the time, losing only to St. Thomas Aquinas. The Baby Blues had beaten the Cougars earlier in the year, and the eventual state champions had the speedy and slender team outsized and outmatched.

Despite the largest turnout of the year from the NW faithful, it was the first time in five games that senior Jon Kankam was not able to do a post-game victory back flip, as the Cougars fell 3-1.

Sticking with the theme of the season, the dejected boys wiped away tears of sorrow to prepare for the consolation game the next day. They came out with kicks of fury, beating the Dodge City Red Demons 2-0, and taking home the third place trophy. But after the miracle run they had made in the postseason, third place seemed like a letdown to some of the Cougar players.

“It’s frustrating getting this far and then not getting to the championship, you know, because that’s where everyone wants to be. We began the season with expectations to win the league. That didn’t work out, but we came out in the postseason, and we really started clicking at the right time,” senior Lippi Souza said. “Overall, I guess I’m happy with the result that we got in the end.”