In a match played in front of a Kansas D-I soccer record 2,514 fans — the first over-capacity crowd in the history of Rock Chalk Park — it wasn’t a fan in the stands, but a straggler in the lounge just off the press box overlooking the field that perfectly summed up the gut-wrenching 1-0 loss.
The Jayhawks (6-6-2) put together a dominant offensive showing, outshooting Kansas State 25-5 and earning nine corner kicks in the inaugural women's soccer edition of the Sunflower Showdown. But after a flurry of late chances were saved, the fan could only shake his head, finally ready to exit the crimson and blue-decorated lounge some 20 minutes after the disappointing conclusion.
“That would’ve been so epic. So epic,” he said. “Props to that goalie.”
The sentiment was a common one.
By the end of the match, Kansas State goalkeeper Miranda Larkin had a hand — err, glove — in each of the game’s biggest plays.
With Kansas trailing by a goal with less than 120 seconds to play, the ball fell to Lois Heuchan at the edge of the six-yard box. She took a shot, but Larkin came up with a save. KU soccer coach Mark Francis put both hands on the back of his head.
“Really gutted for us,” Francis said. “Probably the most disappointing result of the season so far.”
Soon after, his hands would return to their perch.
The Jayhawks had the ball with enough time for exactly one more chance. The clock ticked down to 20 seconds and then 10.
Sophomore defender Elise Reina dribbled down the left side of the field and crossed the ball into the box. Ceri Holland positioned herself for a header and directed the ball goalward from 12 yards out.
Larkin punched it over the bar. Holland collapsed to the ground, sitting at where she’d just attempted to tie the game.
The K-State (6-6-1) players ran onto the field to celebrate. As they returned to their bench, chants of “Let’s go Larkin” broke out from K-State fans.
“I know girls are heartbroken that they didn’t get the chance and put it away,” Hagan said. “Honestly, we had five or six chances that we usually don’t even get in a game.”
Sure enough, it was the same story for Hagan, who led the team with five shots, two of which were on goal. Perhaps it would’ve been the most fitting for the Wichita native to break the deadlock given the scene behind the north goal, which the Jayhawks shot on in the second half.
Well into the teeth of the action, some fans — which she later identified as sorority sisters — held white posters over the wall spelling out the words “Go Grace.” As the Jayhawks’ hopes started to dwindle, so did the signage.
The Jayhawks had a trio of corners, the last of which led to a shot by Hagan that was saved with 17 minutes left to play. By that point, only the word “Go” remained.
Moments later, a long free kick by Holland sailed all the way to the keeper. A lonely “G” fluttered up in the wind, making it completely unreadable.
“You feel the love from your fans and that just makes you want to give the game to them,” Hagan said. “It just sucks we couldn’t get it for them today.”
That was the story of the night.
In a match dominated by one side, owning the vast majority of both the possession and chances, it was the other who took advantage of a singular opportunity to win the game.
Katie Cramer passed the ball to Hannah Davis for a goal and the night — complete with fireworks, the KU band and plenty of alumni in attendance — was spoiled.
“Unfortunately in our sport that happens. I mean, I thought we had by far the better of it,” Francis said. “They had one chance. The kid scored it. So we don’t win the game.”