St. Thomas Aquinas defeats Shawnee Heights soccer in regional final

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Shawnee Heights’ best season in soccer history ended on a wet and disappointing Thursday at the Bettis Family Sports Complex.

The 5-0 loss to defending 5A champion Aquinas shouldn’t define the T-Birds’ season, coach Nic Simons implored his team as they huddled in the constant rain.

“I’ve said it over and over to whoever wants to hear it: it’s a special group,” Simons said. “We have faced a lot of adversity. That’s no excuse, but not a single game has we had the starting eleven. Their accomplishments are simply amazing. This game doesn’t define everything else they’ve done.

Those accomplishments include a 15-3 record and a United Kansas Conference title. The T-Birds survived a 1-0 battle against Highland Park on Tuesday to advance to the regional final, in which they hosted seventh-seeded Aquinas.

But their hands were full with the defending champions. Aquinas took the 1-0 advantage on an early Cooper Welsh goal, then held off Shawnee Heights, who played the first half with a strong wind at their back. The Saints’ defense did not allow any shooting on goal in the first half which was played mainly on the side of the T-Birds.

Shawnee Heights junior Isaac Wilson (2) keeps the ball on St. Thomas Aquinas in the second half of Thursday's 5A regional championship.  The Thunderbirds lost 5-0.

Once the pitch was overturned in the second half, Shawnee Heights couldn’t hold back the floodgates. With the wind at his back, Aquinas scored four goals in quick succession to put the game on the sidelines.

“We played well overall in the first half, but I think the wind kind of reduced our strength in the second half,” said Simons.

The Saints, who blew up Pittsburg Colgan in the first round of the playoffs, now advance to the regional quarterfinals on Tuesday.

Shawnee Heights junior Zach Memmer (35) fights for possession over John Weinrich (14) of St. Thomas Aquinas during the second half of Thursday's 5A regional championship.  The Thunderbirds lost 5-0.

“Leave him to Saint Thomas (Aquinas). If they’re not in the state championship, I’d be surprised, ”Simons said. “These are not the seven seeds. They are among the first four seeds. They play a hell of a schedule.

“But we’re putting ourselves in a position to host, and that’s really all we can ask for.”

Simons wasn’t shocked that the Saints kept Shawnee Heights on the defensive all night.

“I think defensively we’ve been strong all year,” said Simons. “We kept possession pretty well, but overall we missed that killer-killer ‘let’s put the teams aside’ mentality.

Shawnee Heights junior Jordan Garvin (9) makes contact to get the ball in the second half of Thursday's 5A regional championship against St. Thomas Aquinas.  The Thunderbirds lost 5-0.

“But I’m leaving here tonight with a full heart, knowing that these kids have worked hard. Obviously, it didn’t end the way we wanted it to. But I’m pretty happy with the way they played. ”

Thomas Aquinas (13-4-1) 1 4 – 5

Shawnee Heights (15-3) 0 0 – 0

Thomas Aquinas – Goals: Konnesky 2, Welsh, LeBourveau, Hall. Assists: Ryan 2, Muckerman, Mason. Cut: Diggs and Seger.

Shawnee Heights – Objectives: none. Aids: none.

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