Goal-oriented FHSU women's soccer team continues record-breaking season

women's soccer camps 2016

By Diane Gasper-O'Brien
University Relations and Marketing
HAYS, Kan. -- One had visited Hays and been hearing stories about Fort Hays State University her entire life, despite living four hours away. The other had never heard of FHSU until pulling off Interstate 70 for a bite to eat in the winter of 2015.

Now, Abbie Flax from Overland Park and CheyAnn Queener from Colorado Springs, Colo., are part of a stingy defense that has helped lead the Tiger women's soccer team into the NCAA Division II playoffs for the second time in program history.

FHSU, the No. 3 seed in the Central Regional with its 14-4-2 record, will take on Harding (Ark.) University in first-round action at 1 p.m. Friday in Mankato, Minn.

That Flax and Queener would meet -- much less be leaders on the same college team -- didn't even seem a remote possibility back in the fall of 2014.

Flax was in the midst of the first semester of her freshman year at FHSU, where she redshirted her first season with the Tigers. Queener had just finished her sophomore season at Laramie County (Wyo.) Community College, where she helped her team to a third-place finish in the NJCAA National Tournament her freshman year.

Queener and her mom were on their way to southeast Kansas one winter February day to check out the Emporia State University soccer team when they stopped in Hays for dinner.

"There were a lot of people in the restaurant who were talking about Fort Hays State basketball; I think there had just been a game that night," she said.

That enthusiasm about their university piqued Queener's interest, and she emailed FHSU Coach Craig Shaw right then and there.

"He answered back right away and asked me to come visit," Queener said.

Following their return trip from Emporia, Queener stopped in Hays again, this time with a goal in mind. She met with Shaw and visited the FHSU campus.

"I loved it right away," Queener said. "The facilities here are incredible. It was very affordable, closer to home. I love everything about it."

Queener also learned that FHSU featured one of the state's top programs in her field of study -- elementary education.

"This is all so exciting now, especially with me being a senior," she said.

It's equally exciting for Flax, also an elementary education major who has known most of her life that she would be attending Fort Hays State.

After helping lead the Lenexa-St. James Academy soccer team to two top-three finishes at state during her high school career, Flax promptly signed with FHSU.

That seemed a given, considering her dad, Greg -- the oldest of 10 siblings -- played football for the Tigers. Both of Flax's parents are FHSU graduates, and her grandmother and several aunts, uncles and cousins live in and around the Hays area.

"I have so much family here in Hays, and the facilities are fantastic," Flax said.

All but one of Flax's 12 victories this season have been shutouts, and she owns a 0.53 goals-per-game average.

However, Flax gives a lot of the credit for that impressive statistic to her teammates.

"My players in front of me are so good that sometimes I can get bored back there, but that's a good thing for the team," she said. "This is the best defense I've ever played on my entire life, but we are just as good offensively, too."

A Tiger victory Friday would set a new school record for most victories in a single season. Their current victory total of 14 ties the single-season mark set in 2012. Beating Harding also would give FHSU women's soccer its first ever NCAA tournament victory and keep the Tigers' season alive, advancing to Sunday's regional semifinals.

Those are just two of many goals for the team this season, Queener said.

Following a disappointing overtime loss to a nationally ranked team in the semifinals of the MIAA Tournament last fall, Queener said the Tiger squad got together and decided to put in extra time in the spring.

"Our back line worked together all spring long," Queener said. "That helped to work out the smaller details and how we work together. Plus, we have great team chemistry on and off the field."

Shaw, head coach since the start of the program at FHSU in 2011, agreed.

"They were really well prepared coming into this season, really fit," Shaw said. "It's the first time that every single person passed the fitness test the first day."

The Tigers went on to earn their first national ranking in program history and finished as regular-season co-champions of the MIAA.

Shaw points to a couple of other areas that have been key to the Tigers' success this fall as well.

"This is the best group of seniors we've had here," Shaw said, "really good leaders."

Joining Queener on that list of seniors is her defensive mate at center back, Regan Lawler from Kansas City, Mo.; midfielders Hannah Smith from Garland, Texas, and Hannah Jurgens, Lincoln Neb.; and forward Dani Harris from Centennial, Colo., who has knocked in three game-winning goals this season.

"And," Shaw added, "this is really a solid crew overall this year, strong at every position."

"Yes, I think our all-around talent is great," said forward Kelsey Steffens, a junior from Greeley, Colo., whose 49 career points to date is a school record. "The girls who come off the bench are really talented, too. We have a lot of depth."

For more information on the Tiger women's soccer program, visit www.fhsuathletics.com.

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