The Liberal Redskins had to defeat a strong defensive stand by Wichita West, but after a goal late in the first half, Liberal cruised to a 3-0 win to advance to the Elite Eight in Class 5A soccer. L&T photo/Earl Watt
By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
The Redskins faced a common defense that has been tried against the Redskins for the past 10 years. Wichita West found that it had the same results as the others, a Redskin victory.
Liberal fought through a packed-in Pioneer defense Thursday for a 3-0 win and a South Central Region 3 championship.
The Redskins (13-5) advanced to face Salina Central (17-1) for the Region title Tuesday. The winner will advance to the state tournament Friday.
Wichita West played the defense to perfection for the first 35 minutes of the game.
Liberal attempted to bypass the defense by pulling the Pioneers away from their goal with passes near midfield, but the defense continued to huddle around the goal.
“We tried to pull them out, but they wouldn’t come out,” Liberal coach Lori Navarro said. “There were no open lanes. We had to be patient on offense and check to the ball. We got eager and wanted to score, but their defense was flat footed. That caused us to be offside every time.”
Liberal had few opportunities to score with the packed defense, but it also meant ta Wichita West was no scoring threat.
Liberal continued to look for chances, and with 3:27 to go in the first half, the Redskins finally had a chance when Eduardo Moreno slipped between two Pioneer defenders and kicked a ball that ricocheted back to him off the goal post. He took a second shot and was tackled at the same time by two Pioneer defenders. The ball sailed into the goal, but Moreno needed help off the field after the rough play.
With the 1-0 lead, the Redskins came out in the second half with Moreno back in the line-up, and with 35:08 to play Liberal’s senior standout found a narrow window in front of the goal after receiving a pass from Jason Rios, and he used his left foot to boot the ball past Wichita West’s Logan Majors for a 2-0 Redskin lead.
Isai Gutierrez added another goal with 30:22 to play in the game when he received a pass from Misael Moncayo and drove the ball high into the Pioneer goal.
With a 3-0 lead, Liberal expected Wichita West to become more aggressive in an attempt to score.
They never did.
Wichita Wets continued to play nine defenders with only one offensive player and never posed a serious scoring threat the entire game.
“We had to keep our composure,” Navarro said. “We knew they would play a lot of defense with only one man up and everyone else on defense. That’s the reason why Wichita West is here. They fought hard.”
But Navarro was no stranger to the strategy of playing for penalty kicks. Several opponents have tried to defeat the Redskins over the past decade with the exact same strategy. And Navarro has had plenty of chances to develop a scheme for the slow, defensive style of play.
“They listen and know that with strategy, we can win,” she said.
Liberal advanced to the Elite 8 of Class 5A soccer and will travel to Salina Central. The most recent common opponent was Ark City. Salina Central defeated Ark City 7-2 Oct. 11 while the Redskins blanked Ark City 10-0 Tuesday.
Liberal finished as the state’s runner-up last year to St. Thomas Aquinas, a private school that has selective enrollment as opposed to Liberal which ahs open enrollment.
Aquinas advanced to the quarterfinal round with a 2-0 victory over Mill Valley and will host Blue Valley Stilwell Tuesday. Aquinas has already defeated Blue Valley 4-0 earlier this season.
Other quarterfinal games include KC Turner at Topeka Seaman, and Great Bend at Kapaun.