GPS senior Kennedy Ball leads in soccer victory over rival Baylor

Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Baylor (24) Lilly Catalanotto defends as GPS (6) Kallie West kicks the ball at Girls Preparatory School on Wednesday, September 28, 2022.

GPS senior Kennedy Ball has provided thrilling moments throughout her high school soccer career, and she added one of her best yet against the Bruisers' biggest rival.

Ball struck early to provide the lone goal in Wednesday's 1-0 home shutout of Baylor in front of an enormous crowd that had overflow parking in Coolidge Park.

In the 11th minute, Ball used her gazelle-like speed to get behind the Lady Red Raiders on the right side, took a perfect pass from eighth-grade midfielder Kallie West, sidestepped the keeper with a nifty move and dribbled in the score — to the pleasure of thousands wearing blue and white in the crowd.

"There are so many emotions in this game," said Ball, who has committed to Arkansas. "This is my senior year, and the passion was flowing tonight. The fans made this game feel like so much more than just a regular-season showdown. Right now it really feels like you are on top of the world. This is a big deal to us."

The Bruisers (9-2-1) improved to 3-0 in Division II-AA East, putting themselves in position to earn the No. 1 seed for just the second region tournament they will ever have played in their current division. The Lady Red Raiders fell to 14-4-1, 3-1.

GPS contained Baylor junior star Jada Cooper as defenders did a great job staying tight on the blazing playmaker, and there was another defender even deeper in case Cooper broke free.

Freshman keeper Farrah House made six saves, charging up to make a great punchout late in the win. Blair Ford and Ally McVay combined for a great blocked shot in the closing moments, and Megan Jones and Hayden Wise made big plays throughout the victory.

"You have to get to Jada before she gets going. Just like people do with Kennedy (Ball), Sasha (Carbone) and Hayden (Wise)," GPS coach Patrick Winecoff said of players on his own roster. "Our girls are used to playing really talented forwards with great speed, and that really helped us tonight for sure."

The Bruisers finished with a 13-8 advantage in shots and had 14 corner kicks as they avenged a rare loss to Baylor last season. Over the past 11 years, GPS has lost only once to the Lady Red Raiders.

"Rarely is this game not close," Winecoff said. "We know each other well, and the girls play on the same club teams. At the end of the day, it takes a special effort or play to get over the hump, and that's what happened tonight to win this game."

It seemed fitting that one of the top GPS players of all time made the difference.

"I am just trying to lead well on and off the field," Ball said. "I want to distribute, score and put my teammates in the best position possible. I love playing with these girls and want to savor every moment."

Contact Patrick MacCoon at Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.