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Helias moves to Class 2 championship contest

BLUE SPRINGS — They’re a win from making program history.

The Helias Lady Crusaders advanced to the Class 2 state championship for the first time ever with a 2-1 victory over Rosati-Kain in Friday’s semifinal at Blue Springs High School.

“You dream of things like this,” Helias first-year head coach Brad Dempsey said. “These girls, they wanted to do it today, and they did. It was great. I’m so proud of them.”

Helias’ fourth appearance in the Final Four, after a pair of fourth-place finishes in 2000 and 2002 and a third-place trophy last season, will end with a date against St. Dominic in today’s 2 p.m. final at Blue Springs South High School. St. Dominic beat Kearney 2-1 on a goal with 49 seconds left in the second overtime in Friday’s second semifinal.

“You earn getting into a state championship,” Dempsey said. “We earned it and nobody can take it away from us.

“I’m just glad we’re there.”

After an evenly played first half that ended tied at 1, Helias got the game-winning goal from an unlikely source.

Sophomore reserve Kendall Smith scored the biggest goal of her life with 15 minutes left by blasting home a point-blank chance following a low cross from the right side from Jordan Poire.

“It’s amazing,” Smith said of her fourth goal of the season. “Almost speechless. Jordan had a great cross and I happened to be there.”

Said Dempsey: “We have something great here because most girls on our bench would be starting for somebody. I’m really happy for her.”

It was sweet justice for Helias, which yet again controlled the second half before finally coming through with the goal.

“We deserved to win that game,” Dempsey said. “If you press the right buttons and your team stays with it, and you can get them to believe the whole time, then they’ll persevere. And these ladies have done that.”

Helias struck first with 11 minutes remaining in the opening half on a beautiful effort from Becky Roberts. After taking a pass from Taylor Hagenhoff in the box, the crafty junior maneuvered around a defender with a slick touch and blasted home a wide-open shot into the lower right-hand corner of the goal.

“It was really unexpected,” Roberts said. “It just came to me and I happened to put it in the right spot. I got the ball from Taylor, a perfect ball to my feet, just made a little left-foot touch around her and put it in the corner.

“It got us going. It made us step up and know we can do this.”

Said Dempsey: “Becky did it there, and she almost did it a couple more times. She’s playing top-notch right now. She’s peaking at the right time.”

Rosati-Kain had its chances throughout the half, sending a point-blank shot over the crossbar and somehow failing to score on a 4-on-0 break.

The Kougars finally equalized with 21 seconds remaining before halftime on a rocket off the foot of Sarah Gerwel. On what appeared to be a harmless ball in open space, Gerwel blasted the right-footed shot from well outside of the penalty box over the outstretched arms of Helias goalkeeper Liz Czarnecki, caroming off the underside of the crossbar and into the net.

“Getting a goal scored on you with 21 seconds left, it can be frustrating,” Dempsey said. “I wasn’t worried. Our halftime talk wasn’t about the goal, it was, ‘Hey, it’s 0-0, we’ve been here.’ They knew what they had to do and they did it.”

And now Helias has a chance to win its first state championship. The eighth-ranked Lady Crusaders (17-8) will undoubtedly be the underdog against St. Dominic (25-0-1), the top-ranked team in the state and the nation.

“We have to come out now and battle with Helias. We’ve seen them earlier, so we know what’s at stake there,” St. Dominic head coach Greg Koeller said, referencing a 1-0 St. Dominic victory April 1 against Helias at the 179 Soccer Park. “We’re just happy to be one step further. One more to go.

“It was a well-played game (the Helias-St. Dominic contest). Watching them, they have some speed up top. We’re going to have to recover (Friday night). I think our depth, some of the girls I didn’t use today will be coming out (today).”

The second semifinal game between St. Dominic and second-ranked Kearney (26-1) was billed by some as the de facto championship game. Helias wants to prove that wasn’t the case.

“Obviously we want to shut that up,” Dempsey said. “You never count anybody out. The New England Patriots (in 2008) were 18-0 and in the Super Bowl. They lost.”

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