Wednesday evening Sunflower State FC hosted the inaugural game of the 2023 WPSL season. against the Kansas City Courage, in a budding MidTown Rivalry.
“Great game. Well fought from both teams,” said Sunflower head coach Jose Ramos, “Came up positive the other way. Now let’s come back tomorrow and prepare for the game on Saturday.”
With the pressure from the Rivalry not lost on any of the players, Sunflower started with some success on the wings with MNU products Cali Schechinger and Gabriella Leon. However, as the first half went on, the stamina of the Courage started to pay dividends. The Courage started capitalizing on the fatigue of Sunflower's players. But somehow the half ended tied, 0-0.
The second half started similar to how the first ended, but in the 65th minute Steiner scored the first of her goals, after stealing the ball from a Sunflower defender. She forced Sunflower’s goalkeeper Marcelle Thedinga to dive and then dribbled around her for the first goal of the new WPSL season. Courage now leading, 1-0.
KC Courage continued to dominate time of possession but as the half progressed Sunflower found their pockets of possession. After a well defended a corner kick Jaclyn Hicklin found a on rushing Mackenzie Dimarco who scored an absolute stunner from deep against a very talented Kaylin Williams’s outreached arms. At the 79th minute, the game was now tied, 1-1.
It was at this point that both teams put the pedal to metal, neither wanting to settle for a tie. In the 89th minute, the Courage would gather the ball just past midfield, moving it up to Kaira Houser. She then passed to Steiner and she worked around Thedinga to sink her second goal in the back of the net. With just a few minutes left, Kansas City would hold for the 2-1 win.
“For both teams we want to try to walk out as healthy as possible, nobody wants to lose players in the first match,” Courage head coach Candice Fabry said, “We saw things that will be issues to address. I think it was competitive, it was fun, so it was enjoyable in that way. Especially when you come out with a win. I’m happier than I would have been walking out with a tie.”
Sunflower State (0-0-1) are back in action at Rockhurst University on Saturday May 20th at 3:00 PM against AFC Columbia (0-0-0)
KC Courage (1-0-0) welcomes St. Louis Scott-Gallager (0-0-0) at Rockhurst University on Sunday May 21st at 2:00 P.M.