By SHAWN YORKS
• Daily Leader
EMPORIA — The Liberal Redskins did everything they could do — and for the most part, did it right.
But in the end, the Redskins couldn’t overcome St. Thomas Aquinas, as the boys from Overland Park captured their eighth straight state soccer championship, shutting out Liberal 3-0 on Saturday at Emporia District Stadium.
“I thought we played one of our best games just all the way around,” said Liberal head coach Lori Navarro. “I told the guys, you give it all you got, you keep everything on the field, and in the end if that’s still not enough, there’s not much more you can do.”
And that’s exactly what the Redskins did.
Liberal started off strong against a distinctly taller St. Thomas Aquinas team as both teams came out with an aggressive style of play.
“St. Thomas Aquinas is a team that wins championships and they came out here with a lot of confidence,” Navarro said. “They have a lot of firepower. I felt like we started stronger than we did any game today.”
The Saints (18-3) got a direct kick on goal at 23:10 of the first half after the first of several yellow cards called against the Redskins. An inordinate number of penalties were called against Liberal, despite aggressive play by both teams.
That kick went wide, but the Saints got on the board at 12:49 of the first half when Kyle Whigham took the ball off a corner kick and placed it to the left of goalie Frederic Gomez.
The score would remain 1-0 at the half despite a shot by Jose Chavira that was saved by STA goalie Austin Cordill just a few seconds after the Saints scored.
The Redskins did manage several shots on goal in the second half, including a free kick by Jose Covarrubias that went wide right at 34:40 and a shot by Auden Portillo that was ride left at 32:30.
Gomez had several key saves for the Redskins as the Liberal defense was kept on its heels most of the second half.
Caleb Brewer scored for Aquinas at 16:58 of the second half after a red card, a yellow card and an offsides were called against Liberal in the span of 10 minutes.
The final goal for STA came when Gomez came forward in the box to defend the ball and it got past him, leaving a wide open net for Luke Steele at the 9:52 mark of the second half.
“I told the guys we’ve got nothing to lose in the second half,” Navarro said. “We worked so hard to get to this point, play hard against this team and make them realize we’re here, we’re here for a reason and we’re going to give you our best game.”
As far as penalties, there were four yellow cards and a red card called on Liberal — none against the Saints.
“We did everything right,” Navarro said. “It just wasn’t meant to be this year. I don’t know. I hate to say I’m at a loss for words.”
Liberal ends the season as the second place 5A team in all of Kansas — and the best public school 5A soccer team in the state.
“We had the best-prepared team and we had a very aggressive team,” Navarro said. “Even that was not good enough against such a powerhouse like St. Thomas.”
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