Taylor McCarthy has traveled a challenging road as a Duchense High athlete — and she wouldn't have it any other way.
That will be especially true if McCarthy gets to finish on top with her Pioneers girls soccer teammates Wednesday and Thursday in the Class 1 state tournament at Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City.
“There has been a lot of hard work, but it has been 100 percent worth it to play for Duchesne and to play soccer there,” McCarthy said. “Everybody goes through things. You just have to deal with them the best you can and make the most of it.”
The Pioneers (11-8) are scheduled to take on Lone Jack (17-4) in a Class 1 semifinal at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
It is Duchesne’s return to the state semifinal round after a one-year absence.
Taylor, a senior defender, played for Duchesne’s third-place Class 2 finisher in 2017 but missed much of last season while battling a concussion and a knee injury.
“She is just that type of player that has that drive to overcome situations,” Duchesne coach Pat Turner said. “She came back her junior year and I know the injuries not only set her back on the field, but mentally as well. The type of player that she is, though, you could see that this year was going to be different.”
McCarthy faced adversity in a completely different way last fall.
A three-year member of Duchesne’s varsity softball program, McCarthy found herself without a team for her senior campaign when the season was canceled because of low participation in the program.
Instead of suffering through an idle fall, McCarthy instead took a chance and ran cross country.
“I was a little nervous because that was a new sport that I hadn't done and it's my senior year,” McCarthy said. “The team was so nice and it was a fun experience. It helped me stay in shape. It helped me with fall soccer and it's still helping me now. It was overall just a really great experience.”
Returning to the pitch in March, McCarthy helped the Pioneers stay steady through an 0-4 start.
The Pioneers have allowed 27 goals, and 12 of them came in those opening four losses.
“You can tell that she's really come into her own,” Turner said. “She's the sweetest, nicest girl. She has come into her own, though, where she can be that captain that can grab her teammates by the collar and say, ‘This is how we do things at Duchesne soccer and this is the way it's going to be.' The young girls have responded. She's hard-nosed when she needs to be and that just the way she plays, too. She'll go into tackles and, even if she is dealing with an injury, you can't tell. She goes into every tackle like it's going to be her last one. She's gritty.”
McCarthy, who scored a game-winning goal April 26 against Hazelwood West, hopes to help Duchesne return to glory days she remembers very well.
The Pioneers are shooting for their sixth state title this week, including a run of four in a row from 2013-16.
“State is just such a difference experience than any other high school game,” McCarthy said. “Having been there, I do feel like there are things I can (impart to) the other girls. I am so unbelievably excited. I was talking to my mom about how it's poetic that I started this my freshman year by going there and I'm ending my senior year there. I've come full circle.
“Ever since my freshman year when we won, I've wanted to go back and do the same thing. It was very heartbreaking sophomore year to go back and lose in the semifinal game. I've been working hard to not have a repeat of that.”