With the Kansas State soccer team’s 2-1 overtime victory this past week in the 2021 Sunflower Showdown against rival Kansas, the team had to deal with more than just the opposing team during the match.
“The leadership came through in critical moments, so we talk about key moments and details, and that was one of those games that fell our way,” head coach Mike Dibbini said.
Before the team ever had a chance to take the field, the game was delayed by an 85-minutes rain delay.
“It was a physical match,” Dibbini said. “The delays, it was an emotional rollercoaster throughout the game, but our players stayed relaxed, stayed composed, stayed focused and stayed disciplined throughout the game, and it showed there at the end when we needed that one [goal] and they came through at the right time.”
The rain delay didn’t damper the team’s spirits, though. Instead, it fueled the team to go out and get the win.
“It definitely kept the adrenaline going high,” sophomore goalkeeper Alaina Werremeyer said. “There was never a lull, which is kind of weird to think because we had so many stoppages, but every time you would stop you wanted to be back on the field, so I think it kept the momentum up and kept it high, and I think we saw that on the field with our physicality and our grittiness.”
Werremeyer finished the match with a career-high 10 saves as the Jayhawks only posted eight total shots in the first half. Even with having to play in non-friendly conditions, Werremeyer still put together a career day.
“It’s slippery,” Werremeyer said. “It’s hard, but I mean, honestly getting the early touches, early holds is a good confidence boost, and I think you just have to work with what you have and we had the wet ball, wet field, wet gloves so I looked really good and everyone else did too.”
Coach Dibbini praised his goalkeeper for her performance and stepping up and improving as the season has progressed.
“She’s able to do that and she’s capable of doing that,” Dibbini said. “It showed, really, how far she’s come from bouncing back from a few games earlier in the Big 12, so it’s good confidence for us.”
Junior forward Kyler Goins echoed Werremeyer’s thoughts on the team keeping the adrenaline high during the delay.
“In the locker room, we were in there for a while, and we were kind of just like, ‘We can’t let ourselves sit in here and just lay on the ground,'” Goins said. “It didn’t really affect us much. We were glad to be there. We wanted to play KU. We lost last year and we wanted to come out for blood, so I would say that our mindset still remained the same from when we got there — we were ready to play.”
The game was swung in K-State’s favor early when Goins found the back of the net with help from the weather elements seven minutes into the game.
“[The shot] was whatever it needed to be in the moment,” Goins said. “It wasn’t that it wasn’t a shot, and it wasn’t that it wasn’t a cross. I felt her coming up on me, and I needed to get it off my foot quickly and I looked around and I saw out of the corner of my eye that there weren’t many players around me. It was wet and I was hoping that it would go through her hands like it did — and it did — but it was whatever it needed to be in the moment.”
Not only did the team have to deal with the weather and rain delays, but late in the game, the power went out at Rock Chalk Park. However, Goins said the outage didn’t have much of an effect on the team.
“Our adrenaline was pumping, it was 1-1 and everyone was like, ‘Let’s go, we’re ready for overtime, let’s go,’ so I wouldn’t say that it affected us,” Goins said.
The Wildcats ultimately came out on top during overtime when redshirt sophomore midfielder Caylee Thornhill found the back of the net off an assist from Brookelynn Entz to end the game.
“I don’t really remember, but I’m trying to,” Thornhill said. “There was so much adrenaline going on. We were already delayed so long, and then we had the power outage, and then it’s overtime, and it was just like, ‘We are not going home with a loss right now. We are soaking wet and we have so much adrenaline we’re just finishing this game however messy the goal is, the ball is going in the back of the net somehow.'”
Thornhill said the game-winning goal is one of the best plays in her career so far at K-State.
“I think that one might be number one now,” Thornhill said. “With the rivalry and with just how crazy that game was, I think that might be the top one, and I don’t know if it can be topped. Hopefully it will, but I think for a while this one is going to stay top tier for a while.”
No one is more deserving of scoring the game-winning goal than Thornhill, Dibbini said.
“She definitely deserves that,” Dibbini said. “That girl has been working really, really hard and is such a sweet young lady. Comes in and does everything right, and having her go through those injuries and those setbacks only made her better. She showed some strong resilience this year in coming back, and we saw her keep getting better each and every game, and she’s earned everything that she’s achieved up to this point. But that goal — couldn’t have asked for a better person to put that ball away in that key moment, so I’m very happy for her.”
With this win over Kansas, K-State is now 6-6 overall and 1-2 in Big 12 play after starting 0-2 to open Big 12 play.
“It’s massive,” Dibbini said. “The Big 12 is a gauntlet and having, you know, a victory on the road under those conditions and the adversity that we had to go through, shows a lot of character and if we can continue to build off of that and have that momentum going into the next matches, I think we’re in good shape.”
Going into the next match against West Virginia, one player to watch is redshirt senior Lauren Segalla, who currently leads the Mountaineers in goals (5) and points (10).
“We trust our team, and we know our game plan,” Werremeyer said. “We trust our coaches to do everything that they can to get us ready so we know who to look out for and what players to prepare for, but our defense works together as a team, and I don’t think we let anyone intimidate us.”
What is the key to beating the No. 9 ranked Mountaineers at home? Keeping up the energy.
“Just match their energy,” Goins said. “They’re a great team, they’re a possession team like us, and we just want to come out here and match their energy and make sure that we’re competing and being physical. I think the energy is going to be great. I’m super excited.”
West Virginia is a different style of team than the Wildcats have faced in Big 12 play, but with preparation all week, Dibbini is confident in his team.
“We had a good training session this morning,” Dibbini said. “We have a big challenge in front of us with two top-25 teams coming in — two different styles of teams, too. We’re focused on West Virginia right now, and I think these girls will continue to believe, work on the things we need to work on in training and we’ll prepare them to get ready.”
The team will return to play at 7 p.m. this Thursday against now No. 9 West Virginia (8-2-1) and will take on now No. 23 Baylor (7-2-3) at 1 p.m. on Sunday, with both games at home at Buser Family Park. A broadcast of both games will be provided by Big 12 Now on ESPN+.