Wakeland girls soccer into 4A state title game

GEORGETOWN, Texas -- The first goal Waco Midway allowed in this year’s 4A girls soccer playoffs was the one that would punch Frisco Wakeland’s ticket to the state finals.

Wakeland knocked out Midway, 1-0, in a physical state semifinal match at Birkelbach Field on Thursday.

Wakeland’s Katey Carmichael fought through the Midway defense and sent a beautiful cross through the box to a streaking Ashley Kingston, who was able to volley in pass into an empty net on the far post. The play was sprung by midfielder Ashley Vega, who sent a seeing-eye through ball in between two crashing defenders, right to Carmichael.

The third time was a charm for Carmichael on the cross, who had missed on two assist attempts earlier in the game.

“My goal was to run on to the long balls and slot it back,” Carmichael said. “The first two I did -- I didn’t get it far enough and one went over Maddie [Lundberg’s] head. The one that scored, I hit it hard and Kingston was able to come on to it.”

“It was insane,” Kingston said. “Katey, she’s awesome. She took it all the way down and she made a perfect cross and I just happened to be there.”

Immediately after the goal, the stadium scoreboard malfunctioned causing a fairly significant delay in restarting the game. Coach Meagan Wilson and Carmichael both believed the delay killed momentum and allowed Midway to find a spark that kept pressure on for the remainder of the game.

“I think it did actually,” Carmichael said. “I was kind of upset that happened. I mean, it gave us kind of a break but it affected the momentum.”

Said Wilson: “I was trying to get the fans as involved as possible to keep the energy high as possible on the field. I knew we’d go out and still be able to perform -- I knew we’d be fine. We just had to keep the energy level high.”

The momentum swing gave Midway a few late game chances, including one by Anna Dorsett from close range, which was saved by charging Wakeland keeper Brittanie Barbero. A rebound chance fell at the feet of a Midway attacker, but Madison Brown jumped in the way of the shot, saving what would have been the game-tying goal into an empty net.

Barbero, a Vanderbilt commit, kept her team in the game throughout the match, making key saves that locked down a tie at halftime and closed the door after Wakeland had found the net.

“Britanie Barbero -- player of the match today,” Wilson said. “The kid came up huge. She just played out of her mind. I just can’t say enough about how that kid has stepped up in the playoffs.”

Barbero took the brunt of the game’s physicality, using her body to challenge attackers on 50-50 balls.

“I really just wanted to make sure I didn’t hesitate everytime the ball wasn’t in the air,” Barbero said. “I knew I’m so tall that I just wanted to make sure I went in full force and went for the ball so nothing would be called.”

The highlight of Barbero’s game -- and possibly her state tournament -- came in the first half when she stood her ground after snatching a 50-50 ball, putting a Midway attacker on the ground after running into the keeper. The play made a stand against Midway’s physical play and sparked Wakeland to play the same.

“I was so tired of them knocking me around, so I was like, ‘I’m going to give it back, finally.’ And was given the chance, so I took it,” Barbero said.

Wakeland has a day off to rest and get one final practice in before facing Cedar Park Vista Ridge in the 4A state final at 11 a.m. Saturday.

“It’s crazy because coach has been saying this since the first day of school, ‘We hope to be in the state tournament in April,’ and now we’re here and it’s crazy,” Carmichael said. “I can’t describe it.”