KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Atchison High School girls soccer team saw a rally halted after superior offense by host JC Harmon in the first half of the final contest of the regular season.
With about 15 minutes left in the second half on Thursday at Art Lawrence Stadium in Kansas City, Kansas, down 2-1, multiple opportunities arose for the Lady Red to equalize.
“Yeah it’s not good to go down two goals on the road,” said AHS Head Coach Alex Zanatta. “We had so many chances. We thought we could’ve done it.”
Ayden Saunders, who owns the lioness’ share of Atchison’s offensive success this season — and who put the Lady Red on the board earlier in the second half — got the closest to keeping AHS alive. She overcame a double-team on the lefthand side and charged.
With teammates on the bench urging her on, Saunders fired and barely missed on the outside post. She had a helping of Harmon defensive pressure around her and, having had the momentum of the action put her downfield from support, limited cover from the rest of the formation.
“Our forwards were sucked too far down into our midfield,” Zanatta said. “Forwards get eager to run and get the ball, but if we can keep our line higher, we’ll have more success.”
Things got out of hand from there. Harmon regained the momentum just before the 10 minute mark, and pushed downfield with the same kind of clean offensive machinery that produced two goals in the first half. Atchison’s defense met them there, before the ball became deflected off Hannah Deware’s hand in front of her face just outside the penalty box.
The head referee — who had been subject to criticism from the AHS bench the entire game — ruled it a deliberate handball and awarded Harmon a penalty kick. AHS goalie Veronica Dill didn’t manage to save it, but did record a stellar effort with her glove through 45 minutes of play up to that point. Most notably, she achieved a leaping deflection of the ball up and over the crossbar earlier in the second half, keeping AHS in the game.
Zanatta got into a heated argument with the officials after the game over this ruling and a perceived lack of calls against the home side, but said afterward that he had come to accept that sometimes things just don’t go your way.
“If you’re putting your hand in front of your face, or your chest, just to protect yourself, that shouldn’t be called as a handball in that spot,” he said. “The way that the official explained to me, he thought it was deliberate. It was pretty technical, I don’t know. It was close. I’ll compromise and say it could’ve gone either way.”
The Lady Red, 5-7-2, close out with no victories so far in May; inclement weather cancelled the last home game of the regular season. Their campaign continues with a playoff berth at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, at Eudora High School, 2203 Church St. in Eudora.