By RICK PETERSON
Washburn Rural's soccer team rode a hot start and an even hotter finish to a 6-1 Centennial League victory over Topeka High Monday night at McElroy Field, with the Junior Blues clinching at least a share of the league championship.
Rural, 12-2-1 overall and 7-0 in the league, currently holds a one-game lead over Seaman in the league race and can wrap up its fifth straight title outright with a home win over Hayden on Thursday.
Washburn Rural jumped out to a 2-0 lead over the Trojans in the opening minutes of Monday's game on goals from senior Belle Kennedy and freshman Kate Hinck and still held that two-goal advantage at the halff, but Topeka High (10-5-0, 4-3) cut its deficit to 2-1 on a goal from junior Haley Carpenter at the 33:38 mark of the second half.
The Trojans were still within a goal nearing the midway mark of the second half, but the Junior Blues took command with four goals over the final 21:51.
Sophomore Hayley Legg put Rural in front 3-1 at the 21:51 mark, followed by a goal from senior Kamea Rice with 15:26 left and two goals from senior Alandra Bailey over the final 11:01.
Senior Reagan Allen was credited with a pair of assists for Rural while junior Karsyn McMaster and Hunter McWilliams were also credited with assists.
"Over the last few weeks we haven't played or practiced with the intensity we want to,'' Washburn Rural coach Brian Hensyel said. "I thought Topeka High was the harder playing team in the first half and it carried over into the second when they made it 2-1.
"That maybe woke us up a little bit and the energy was pretty good the last 20, 25 minutes.''
Washburn Rural, third in Class 6A last season, is not only in position for the league title, but is in a position to earn the top West seed for the 6A playoffs.
"If we can finish off the regular season on a good note we win league, get the No. 1 seed and have the exact same record as a really good team last year, so on paper it looks like an awesome season and it has been,'' Hensyel said. "But I think most of us will tell you we've got to find our best soccer because we're not quite there yet. If we're going to have a chance at the end we've got to find our best soccer.''
Topeka High coach Derek Snook, whose Trojans fell to 10-5 overall and 4-3 in the league, said he was pleased with his team's effort, but said High ran out of gas at the end of the game.
"I thought we had some scoring chances in the first half,'' Topeka High coach Derek Snook said. "If we put a couple of those in, obviously it's a diffferent ballgame, but the latter part of the ballgame we were just gassed. They're really good at the second-chance goals and that's what happened.
"I can't fault these girls because they played hard.''
Topeka High will host Emporia on Thursday at Hummer Sports Park.
WASHBURN RURAL 6, TOPEKA HIGH 1
Topeka High (10-5, 4-3) 0 1 -- 1
Washburn Rural (12-2-1, 7-0) 2 4 -- 6
Topeka High -- Goal: Carpenter.
Washburn Rural -- Goals: Bailey 2, Kennedy, Hinck, Legg, Rice. Assists: Allen 2, McMaster, McWilliams.