Published May 19, 2023

Written By:  Sofia Scekic | WPSL Correspondent



In the Heartland Conference season opener, KC Courage defeated Sunflower State FC 2-1 thanks to a goal in the 89' minute by forward Addison Steiner (Northwestern University). Just when it looked like the game would end as a draw Courage defender Sophia Smith (University of Missouri-Kansas City) intercepted a pass by Sunflower State forward Mackenzie Dimarco (Emporia State). Steiner ended up with the ball and put it in the goal to secure the Courage's season-opening win to kick off its first WPSL season since 2019.


The first half of the game saw the teams trading possessions and moving the ball, but neither side could get a shot on goal
or put the ball in the back of the net. The Courage had the first opportunity to score on a penalty kick in the 42' minute as midfielder Courtney Claassen (University of Nebraska) got caught up with Sunflower State midfielder Kyleigh Roe (Emporia State) at the top of the box. Claassen’s free kick went over the top of the goal, however, and the score was still tied at zero by halftime.


The second half of the game netted much more action in and around the goal for each team. Sunflower State had a chance to put points on the board right at the start of the new half when Dimarco had two defenders beat deep in Courage territory. Goalkeeper Kaylin Williams-Mosier (Eastern Michigan University) made an athletic play to meet her at the top of the goal area and sent the ball out of the penalty box to her teammate to save the goal. 


Dimarco had another chance to score just three minutes later as midfielder Jordan Austin (University of Central Missouri) found Dimarco, who was in front of two Courage defenders again, on a long pass down the right side of the pitch. Dimarco couldn't keep full control of the ball in front of the goal and ended up just slightly wide left and another missed opportunity to put points on the board. 


Dimarco was not deterred as she had another opportunity in the 52' - taking this one from right in the center of the box before putting it wide right. Dimarco, who poses a threat to score every time she touches the ball near the goal, was a Second Team All-American in 2022 and holds the Emporia State career goals and points records. She was also the second-leading scorer in the UWS-2 last year and is one of the cornerstones of this year’s Sunflower State team.


Sunflower State had one more opportunity to score in the 58' minute before the KC Courage went on its own run with 11 scoring changes in the following 22 minutes. In that time period, Steiner scored to put the Courage up 1-0 in the 66' minute after a back-header by Sunflower State mistakenly drew out its goalkeeper and left Steiner with the ball in front of a wide-open net. 


Dimarco, not to be outdone, answered with a goal of her own in the 80' minute to even the score 1-1 on an assist from midfielder Jaylie Hicklin (University of Northern Iowa), Dimarco shot from the right side of the field outside the penalty box and the ball soared over the goalkeeper’s head to the back of the net.


Both teams had several more scoring opportunities, but neither was able to put the ball in goal until Steiner beat several Sunflower State players, including the goalkeeper, to score the game-winning goal in the 89th minute.


Both teams played in the UWS League 2 last season and have developed quite the rivalry that has carried over the WPSL - it is only fitting that the season opener pitted the teams against each other. The Courage is the only team in the Heartland Conference that has prior WPSL seasons under its belt — it was founded in 2014 and played in the WPSL for six seasons until the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Sunflower State FC was founded in 2019 as a men’s club but added a women’s team in 2021 and joined the WPSL in January 2023 as an expansion team this season.


The teams both have a relatively quick turnaround before their next game: Sunflower State FC will be back on the pitch looking for its first win of the season on May 20th at AFC Columbia, another 2023 expansion team. Kickoff is set for 3 PM CT. The KC Courage will travel to Saint Louis for a matchup with Saint Louis Scott Gallagher SC on May 21st, with kickoff slated for 2 PM CT.