Shawnee Dispatch

SM North soccer falls 1-0 to Free State despite bounce-back effort from back line

Shawnee Mission North senior midfielder Mariana Reek (right) battles for the ball with Free State freshman Emma Yackley in the first half of Thursday's match at SM North. Yackley scored the lone goal of the game in the ninth minute to give Free State the 1-0 victory. Enlarge photo

April 15, 2016

The back line of Shawnee Mission North's soccer team took its 7-0 loss Tuesday to Olathe Northwest to heart as they prepared to take on Free State on Thursday.

The Indians had lost back-to-back games against Leavenworth and Olathe North by one goal prior to the 7-0 setback to the Ravens, and they took a step back in the right direction despite falling to Free State, 1-0.

"We got kind of beaten up by Olathe Northwest on Tuesday night, so (Wednesday's) practice was really just working on the back line and the midfield and how they were dropping for each other, and what our shape looked like so we weren't giving away the easy ball through," SM North coach Jim Ricker said. "A couple of times in the first half, they got through on us and then we cleaned it up."

Free State freshman Emma Yackley drilled a one-timer from just outside of the penalty area past SM North goalkeeper Amy Epp in the ninth minute, and that proved to be the difference in the contest.

Ricker did not fault Epp or the positioning of his defenders for allowing the goal, and lauded the long-distance strike by the Firebird midfielder.

"The goal was a beautiful goal," Ricker said. "The girl just absolutely hit a cannon."

The majority of the Firebirds' 13 shots came from 15 yards out or farther, which relieved the pressure off of Epp for most of the night. Epp credited the adjustments of the young SM North back line over the past two weeks for being competitive with three of the Indians' last four opponents.

"A lot of our younger players have definitely stepped up," Epp said. "Some of them got a little bit of a wake-up call the first couple of games, but Lindsay (Edmonds) has definitely stepped up in our back line and they're all rising to the occasion."

The Firebirds weren't able to get many clean looks from close range, but the ones they did get were corralled by Epp. The senior goalkeeper made six saves on the night, with two of them coming on breakaway opportunities from Free State sophomore Reagan Sullivan. The second of the two saves on Sullivan's shots came with 30 seconds remaining in the first half, and gave the Indians an extra burst of the energy going into the break.

"It was huge," Ricker said. "The atmosphere in the locker room was really positive about what we were going to do, and how we could get in. They came out on fire in the second half."

Although the Indians weren't able to find the back of the net in the second half, they did control the possession battle for the better part of the final 25 minutes. Ricker told his team after the game that it was the best effort they have put forth this season, and he is hopeful that it will carry over into the Indians' next contest against Basehor-Linwood on Monday.

"We are definitely going in the right direction," Ricker said. "It's how well we keep our positive attitude, and are we living in the moment instead of worrying about what is going on? Just play."

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