by Michael Smith
Grain Valley golfer Owen Herbert had to be on his game.
Throughout Day 2 of the Class 4 Missouri State High School Boys Golf Championships Tuesday at Meadow Lake Acres, the junior said it was in the back of his mind that he was in contention for an all-state honor.
“When I looked up at the scores, I saw my name shoot up the leaderboard,” Herbert said. “It was pretty cool when I saw that.”
He went from 18th place after shooting a 78 on Monday, to jumping all the way up to 11th after notching a 76 on Tuesday for a total score of 154, making him the first Eagles golfer to earn all-state honors since Shane Collins did in 2005 (the top 15 golfers in each Class earn all-state honors).
“When they called me up to the front with everyone watching, it was a pretty surreal moment,” Herbert said of when he got his state medal.
Herbert and the rest of his squad finished seventh out of eight teams with a team score of
671. Jaiden Wilson was 63rd after shooting a two-day score of 171, Charles Aldred was 68th with a 173 and Connor Nadeau was also 68th with a 173.
“It was a great experience and three of the guys who competed will be back next year,” Grain Valley head boys golf coach Andy Herbert said. “The experience was invaluable for them. To see your team score up there when only eight teams from the state in your class get there is a special thing.”
“The guys played well the first day and the second day wasn’t as good. But Day 2 is a different animal, and you wouldn’t know why unless you experience it. Any time there it’s championship day, there is just a different feel to it.”
Owen Herbert had some challenges on his way to becoming all-state, but he was able to overcome them. On Hole 13, he drove a shot into the trees on the right and on his second shot he kept it in the trees. He ended up getting a bogey from there to help maintain his pace for a good score on a hole that could have kept him out of the top 15.
“If I could have dropped the ball (and taken a one-stroke penalty), I would have lost a lot of momentum.” the junior said. “I made a long putt from the green to save bogey. That jump started my round and I played well from there.”
Overall, Owen Herbert was consistent throughout the tournament.
“Day 1 was a scramble day,” he said. “I wasn’t driving the ball great, but I was able to make some key puts to keep my head in the round. Day 2, I hit the ball a lot better. My wedge and my putter were key for me and I made some big puts here and there and really kept the momentum going.”
And while earning all-state honors was a big moment for him, that wasn’t Owen Herbert’s favorite part of the state tournament. It was about having fun with his teammates.
“My dad has been the coach of the program for a long time and I have been around the program for a long time,” Owen Hebert said. “Just to be a part of it with four other guys that love golf as much as I do was pretty cool.
“We go out and practice and they love to do it. The golf was great, but hanging out in the hotel and eating on the way home was probably the best part, hanging out with the guys.”
And that is camaraderie that Andy Herbert said is not common in a sport like golf.
“This is the closest team I have ever been a part of,” Andy Herbert said. ”They practice and play together and on the weekends they got play as a group. It’s fun to see them reap the benefits of their work and do it together.”
Junior Owen Herbert is the first Eagles golfer to earn all-state honors since 2005.
Photo credit: Andy Herbert
by Michael Smith
Grain Valley assistant coach girls soccer coach Blake Desselle said he knew the path to making a deep playoff run would be more difficult this season.
That’s because the Eagles were playing in Class 4 for the first time beginning with Blue Springs in the first round of the Class 4 District 6 Tournament.
Grain Valley easily defeated Blue Springs earlier in the season 6-0 and were the favorites as it came into a game 14-4-1 record and the Wildcats were 1-18 coming in.
The game on Monday turned out to be a tough one for the Eagles. Blue Springs Junior Cadence Cowick broke a 2-2 deadlock in overtime on a counterattack and put a perfect shot from 30 yards under the crossbar and into the upper 90. of the net to stun Grain Valley in a 3-2 loss at Larry Stewart Memorial Stadium at Blue Springs South High School.
“Props to their girls, those were three great finishes,” Desselle said of Blue Springs’ goals. “Sometimes you have to tip your cap and say good job. When they scored early, that put us on our back foot a little bit. They were very organized defensively, so it was hard for us to break them down and play how we like to.
“When you move up to Class 4, you’re going to have to bring it every day. These are the kind of teams Grain Valley is going to have to play. We’re not playing Oak Grove or any of those teams anymore. We’re with the big dogs now.”
The Wildcats appeared to change their strategy from the matchup earlier in the season and it worked.
“They figured out a way to stop us,” Grain Valley sophomore Emma Thiessen said. “They were trying to control me and Annabelle Totta and tried to make sure we didn’t go anywhere with the ball. They were playing really defensive and that was a big part (in the loss).”
Blue Springs fared much better this time against Grain Valley as it had equal possession with the Eagles and created a good amount of chances. Earlier in the first half, Blue Springs took a 1-0 lead when freshman Samantha Davis scored against Grain Valley goalkeeper Camhile Williams.
Thiessen got the equalizer with 7:50 remaining in the first half when she punched in a penalty kick inside the right post. However, Blue Springs came right back to make a PK of their own in the 37th minute when sophomore Gracyn Austin put one into the upper 90 to make it 2-1 going into halftime.
Grain Valley created multiple chances to score against a Wildcat team that was committing most of its players to the defensive third of the field. Despite that the Eagles had multiple chances to score but couldn’t bury one. Sophomore Meghan Knust had a shot that appeared it would sneak under the crossbar but goalkeeper Mikayla Dolby made a leaping save.
Dolby also stopped a close-range rebound attempt from sophomore Annabelle Totta. However, the sophomore finally broke through in the 74th minute when a long free kick from Knust ricocheted off a Blue Springs player and Totta was able to put in the rebound to tie the game at 2-2 and send it to overtime.
In overtime, the Wildcats controlled possession and Cowick ended a stellar Grain Valley season that saw the Eagles finish undefeated in the Suburban White Conference.
“I am proud of this team and how they played,” Thiessen said. “Our two seniors Rian Handy and Lexi Arreguin are just unbelievable players, people and leaders. We are going to miss them. We are going to have to figure out how to work around losing them but I think we are going to come back stronger next season.”
by Michael Smith
For the first time in the history of the program, the Grain Valley boys golf team will compete in the Class 2 Missouri State High School Boys Golf Championships.
The event will begin Monday and will be at Meadow Lake Acres Country Club in New Bloomfield.
While Grain Valley has sent one or two golfers to state during some seasons, this is the first time the Eagles have qualified for the state tournament as a team.
That’s because the team is well balanced. Its No. 1 through 4 golfers can be the team’s leading scorer on any given day, head coach Andy Herbert said.
“We have taken a lot of individuals before but now we have a chance to have a team score at state,” Herbert said. “To be able to compete for a state title is pretty exciting.”
“It doesn’t matter if you’re (No. 1 or No. 5), your score adds the same. It doesn’t matter what number you are, on any given day, any of these guys are capable of shooting a good score. Those guys have taken turns to be the guy that carried us.”
That was the role Owen Herbert and Connor Nadeau played for the Eagles last Monday in the Class 2 District 4 Tournament at Drumm Farm Golf Club.
Both shot an 82 to lead the team to a second place finish with a team score of 348, just two strokes behind first-place Sedalia Smith-Cotton.
Jaiden Wilson shot a 91 and Charles Aldred had a 93 to help the Eagles advance.
“It was something we set as a goal to start the year was to go to state as a team,” Owen Herbert said. “It’s pretty cool we did it all together. And this guy (Nadeau) stepped up in a big moment. It’s just pretty cool.”
Nadeau gets to make his first trip to state after missing the state cut by one stroke last season.
“I was confident because we have been playing well all season,” Nadeau said. “I knew my team was doing well so I knew I needed to step up and I ended up doing well on the back nine.”
“I am having more fun this year and not worrying about the score. I care a lot less about each hole and go out there and have fun.”
Andy Herbert also noted that his golfers putting in the work in the offseason was a big reason for the breakthrough year.
“We’ve built a culture of working hard and being in tournaments over the summer,” Andy Herbert said. “They bought into it. They have gotten better every year.”
Grain Valley will practice on the course before the tournament starts on Monday and finishes on Tuesday. The golfers will play 18 holes on each day on the challenging course.
“The greens are fair, but they are tough,” Herbert said. “Getting yourself in the right position on the green to give yourself a chance to make birdie putts is key on any course, but especially there. If you get it in the wrong place, you might have to three-put on a hole.”
For the Eagles, the goal is clear.
“I think the top four earn a trophy,” Owen Herbert said of the top four teams earning a state plaque. “That is a goal for us. But the pressure is all off. We already made it.”
“We will have to shoot two of our best scores of the year. I think we have it in us if we all go out there and focus and play. We have the talent for sure.”
From left: Connor Nadeau, Jaiden Wilson, Owen Herbert, and Charles Aldred will represent the Grain Valley boys golf team at the Missouri State High School Boys Golf Championships beginning Monday at Meadow Lake Acres Country Club in New Bloomfield.
Photo credit: Michael Smith
by Michael Smith
The Class 2 District 8 championship was hanging in the balance.
With the match tied at 4-4, the winner was going to be decided in the game between Grain Valley’s Kade Compton and Platte County’s Jack Forrest at No. 2 singles.
Eagles head coach Randy Draper said he was perfectly OK with that.
The coach’s confidence in his No. 2 singles player was justified as Compton overcame Forrest scoring four consecutive points in the tiebreaker and came up clutch late to win 6-6 (7-4 tiebreaker), 2-6, (10-6 tiebreaker) to propel his team to a 5-4 victory, earning the program’s first district title ever.
The Eagles advance to the state tournament quarterfinals were they will play undefeated Branson Monday at Branson High School.
“I trusted him to come through,” Draper said, “and he showed you why. He wobbled a little when Jack went up 6-5, and he was tremendous.”
After Forrest hit the ball over the back line to give Compton the winning points, Kade’s teammates rushed the court to mob the senior with high fives and pats on the back. His brother, Carter, poured a bottle of water on him on a 90 degree day.
It was a feel-good moment for the senior, who lost to Forrest earlier in the season.
“I knew the pressure was on me,” Kade Compton said. “I have been in situations like this in my life. My goal was to get my team another match to play and we deserved that this whole season. We said at the beginning of the season we would win districts and we did that. It was on me to bring the district title home to us.”
During the match, there were a handful of times in which Compton hit the net, giving Forrest points. He said he just had to focus.
“I was frustrating myself and I just needed to calm down and get back to the basics of what tennis is,” he said. “You have to get that forehand in. You have to get that backhand in. You have to get that serve in and keep the ball in play. Once I started thinking about that, I succeeded.”
Kade also teamed with his brother Carter in the No. 1 doubles match to defeat Nicholas Gavin and Forrest 8-5.
No. 4 singles player Ben Drinkwater also came up huge as he won his singles match with Nathan Vanek 6-4, 6-3 and joined Ethan Miller to win the No. 2 doubles match 8-6 against Shane Duggan and Jack Bralley.
“I tried to do everything Draper had told me throughout the year, which is get the ball in,” Drinkwater said, “and use my best weapon which is my forehand. It just paid off today.”
“(The hot weather) wasn’t as bad for me because I play soccer, and I think I was able to outlast my opponent in doubles as well as singles.”
No. 5 singles player Micah Siems also won his singles match as he topped Bralley 6-4, 6-2.
“Ethan (Miller) and Ben were disappointed in the close matches at individual districts and they came up big at (No. 2) doubles today,” Draper said, “and Siems has been almost automatic. Him and Drink, we count on them.”
From left, Ethan Miller, Ben Drinkwater, Micah Siems, Kade Compton, Carter Compton and Isaac Burd pose for a photo after winning the Class 2 District 8 championship following a 5-4 win over Platte County. Photo credit: Michael Smith
by Michael Smith
Grain Valley senior pitcher Joel Palecek had to hurry to get to the ball after Truman’s Toby Bingham hit a dribbler down the third-base line.
He quickly picked up the ball and fired it to first baseman Kaden Jeffries to get the final out of the sixth inning in a game in which he had only allowed one unearned run up until that point.
As Palecek walked toward the dugout he got hugs and high fives from his teammates. It was a moment the senior may never forget.
He pitched for the first time since his brother, Weston Covell, passed away on May 3. Through all the emotions and grief, Palecek gave up only five hits and struck out four in a 11-1 mercy-rule victory in Game 2 of a doubleheader against the Patriots Monday at Truman High School. Grain Valley won Game 1 6-1 earlier in the day.
“Being with my teammates takes my mind off of it,” Palecek said. “I relied on God to get through it and prayed. Being on the mound, I just focused on the game.”
Palecek took a few days away from baseball to mourn the loss of his brother, and had the full support of his team as it went to Covell’s celebration of life last Saturday.
“These guys are like family to me,” Palecek said. “I love them all so much. They have been there for me whenever I needed them. I love them and the coaches.”
Grain Valley head coach reciprocated those same feelings toward Palecek.
“He’s a strong kid,” Driskell said. “We’re in a situation in this world where people are dealing with a lot of stuff. I think sometimes we got kids like Joel who never ceased to impress me with stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with baseball. We coach because we want to impact kids.”
“We don’t necessarily think about the kids impacting us back. Joel has done that. He’s impacted this team. HIs teammates love him and he loves them back. That’s why this group is as close-knit as it is.”
And when Driskell told the team that Palecek was coming back to pitch on Monday, the Eagles got fired up.
“Whenever I told the team that Joel was coming back (to play on Monday), you would have thought I told them I was going to give them $100. They were ecstatic. I am a huge fan of Joel Palecek.”
Palecek, through all the emotions, kept the Patriots off balance. The only unearned run he gave up was in the top of the fourth inning on an RBI groundout from Toby Bingham.
He got plenty of help from left fielder Keagan Hart who made a couple of diving catches. He saved two runs from scoring as he laid out to make a diving catch in left center field on a line drive from Bingham when Truman had runners at the corners in the second inning.
He also made a similar catch on a line drive hit by Kane Braxton down the left-field line in the fourth when Truman had a runner on second and two outs.
“He’s saved my life a few times,” Palecek said. “That was awesome.”
Added Hart: “I made a couple of those this year. It’s not something you see every day. They are always fun to me. Having the experience of reading it off the bat helps.”
The Eagles got three runs in the bottom of the third when Jeffries had a two-run single that he drilled off the center field fence. Nick Hooper used a safety squeeze bunt to score Jace Weems from third to make it 3-0.
Grain Valley blew it open with a six-run fifth, which included RBI singles from catcher Brody Baker and right fielder Jake Allen. Hart also had a two-run, opposite field hit in the inning.
The Eagles went into the sixth up 9-1 and ended it on a mercy rule when shortstop Brek Sloan drew a bases-loaded walk and a ground ball from Allen bounced off the glove of Truman third baseman Anthony Locke.
“I think we played a whole complete game,” Hart said. “We were able to play as a team and played clean baseball. We made them make plays by putting the ball in play and we played well in the field.”
Grain Valley senior pitcher Joel Palecek, right, gave up only one unearned run in six innings as he pitched for the first time since his brother Weston passed away on May 3. His teammate Keagan Hart helped him with two diving catches in a 11-1 mercy-rule victory against Truman Monday at Truman High School. Photo credit: Michael Smith
by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley girls soccer team had a chance to take the driver’s seat in the Suburban White Conference Monday.
The Eagles faced off against William Chrisman, which was 1 ½ games behind them in the conference standings. The game started two and half hours early as both teams were trying to avoid forecasted early evening thunderstorms.
The Eagles were able to adjust to the early start time and wet field conditions as sophomore Emma Thiessen led the way with four goals in a 5-0 victory against William Chrisman.
“Emma is a fantastic finisher and has scored a ton of goals this season,” Grain Valley coach Brett Lewis said. “It’s just what Emma does.”
Thiessen scored her goals off three assists from fellow sophomore Annabella Totta and one from senior Rian Handy. Two goals came from the top of the penalty box and the others were tap-ins right at the goal.
She got some help from her teammates. Sophomore Annabelle Totta, who was awarded the game ball afterward, had a team-high three assists, all to Thiessen. Senior Rian Handy also had an assist. Sophomore Meghan Knust was also a big part of the Eagles’ offense.
“We played our normal game, playing through Meghan (Knust),” Thiessen said. “We always play at our best when we find Meghan in some scenarios and when we are able to finish our chances. Meghan helps us build our attack.”
Freshman Mia Cole also contributed, scoring a goal on a penalty kick early in the second half for her second goal of the season.
“I really wanted to get a scoring opportunity because I had a few shots that missed,” Cole said. “When I got fouled, I didn’t know I was getting a PK at first. It was good to get a goal.”
“We played well as a team. We were good with our passing and first touches.”
Thiessen said she has been impressed with the freshman this season.
“She’s definitely a big aspect to our team and our starting 11,” Thiessen said. “She brings finishing skills and she’s fast. I definitely think she’s made a big impact on this team.”
The Eagles (10-4-1, 7-0) were able to adjust to the early start time and wet field conditions as they dominated possession throughout.
“It is tough to leave school, go home and get your stuff and be back here at 3:20,” Lewis said. “Chrisman arrived late and didn’t get here until 3:40. Both teams only had a few minutes to warm up. It’s something that both teams had to deal with.”
The game time change came at noon that day, which gave both teams short notice.
“The goal is to come out and play our game no matter what,” Thiessen said. “Even if it’s wet and rainy we figure it out and play our game.”
“When I am at school, I should have time to go home and come back after the game. But on a day like today, you don’t have too much time to get warmed up or get ready. It definitely changes things.”
Grain Valley freshman Mia Cole, left, scored a goal and sophomore Emma Thiessen scored four in a 5-0 win over William Chrisman Monday at Moody Murray Memorial Field. Photo credit: Michael Smith
by Michael Smith
Grain Valley was in for a fight.
Six games into the Suburban White Conference schedule, the Eagles were seriously challenged for the first time in Thursday’s game against Fort Osage.
In the first matchup with the Indians, Grain Valley cruised to a 4-0 victory. The second game was a dog fight as both teams went into halftime deadlocked at 1-1.
Grain Valley took a 2-1 lead after a goal in the 58th minute, but about 9 minutes later, Fort Osage threatened to tie the game again.
Senior Emma Le was fouled by Grain Valley in the penalty box as she was awarded a penalty kick. The Fort senior tried to fake out Eagles goalkeeper Camihle Williams, but the junior made a sliding kick save and saved the ensuing rebound attempt by Le.
That ended up being the turning point in Grain Valley’s 4-1 victory at Fort Osage High School.
“We could have made it 2-2 and the game flipped on its head after that moment,” Indians head coach Michael Brown said. “They punished us after that.”
Williams said she knew exactly where to be on the penalty kick.
“I knew she was going to fake like she was going right the whole time,” Williams said. “I didn’t fall for it. I knew she was going to aim for the middle. It takes a few years to get used to anticipating fakes, but I can spot it most of the time.”
Grain Valley did make Fort Osage pay for not tying the game at that moment. That was the last shot on goal by the Indians as sophomore Emma Thiessen scored after chasing down a loose ball in the penalty box in the 72nd minute; and sophomore Annabelle Totta made a penalty kick after being fouled in the box with a little more than 5 minutes left to seal it.
While the Eagles ended up winning by three goals, head coach Brett Lewis admitted the game was far from the best performance his team has had this season.
“We had a hard time connecting on eight to 10 yard passes,” Lewis said. “We didn’t finish very well in the first half. We had a couple of opportunities we usually bury. If we make those, this game isn’t close.”
But when it was close, Williams came up with two huge saves. She had four total in the second half and was given the game ball by Lewis after the game.
“Camihle knows what she is going,” Lewis said. “She’s good at PKs and she prides herself on being able to stop them. She will admit it wasn’t her best game, but she made a big save and that gave us the momentum to score two more goals.”
In the first half, sophomore Meghan Knust scored on a give-and-go play in which she got an assist from Thiessen. Fort Osage tied it late in the first half after senior Madison Smith scored on a corner kick.
Knust broke the tie in the 58th minute with another give-and-go where Thiessen got another assist.
“We definitely had a rough start,” Knust said. “We played a new position, which messed us up a little bit. We just power through it.”
“The physicality frustrated us at first because we weren’t used to it, but we got used to it later.”
Grain Valley junior goalkeeper Camihle Williams, left, had for saves in the second half and Meghan Knust had two goals to help the team win 4-1 against Fort Osage Thursday on the road.
Photo credit: Michael Smith
by Michael Smith
Last season, Grain Valley's Jace Weems was a pinch runner for a team that made it to the Class 5 state championship game.
That proved to be an invaluable experience for him, even while playing a specialized role for the Eagles. This season, he is the leadoff hitter and starting center fielder for Grain Valley and he’s grown into his new role nicely.
What was on display in Grain Valley’s Suburban White Conference game Tuesday at Raytown High School as he went 3-for-4 at the plate with a triple, three runs scored and five runs-batted-in during a 23-4 mercy-rule win in five innings.
“He’s doing an outstanding job defensively and running the bases, he’s a game changer,” Grain Valley head coach Brian Driskell said of Weems. “He’s a great guy to have at the top of the lineup.”
Weems’ two-run triple on a line drive to right field highlighted an eight-run inning for the Eagles in the second. He also drew a bases-loaded walk in an eight-run fifth inning.
“With the spot I was in last year, it made me more comfortable,” Weems said. “I have seen it. I got to go to state last year.”
“I definitely had to adjust to the change of speed compared to their tournament we had this last weekend. I was just thinking opposite field and just find a way on base.”
The whole lineup hit well against the Blue Jays as seven out of 10 hitters had at least one hit. In their last eight games, including this one against Raytown, the Eagles have averaged 11 runs per game.
Since its 1-5 start, Grain Valley (13-8, 3-0 White Conference) has won 12 out of its last 15 games and are exceeding the expectations of its head coach.
“They have definitely played above where I thought they would be at this point,” Driskell said. “We still have a lot of things we are really loose with. If we were playing someone else, it might have had a big impact.”
The Eagles had to adjust to Raytown starting pitcher Jaydon Williams, who was throwing pitches around 50-59 mph. During the weekend’s Columbia Tournament, Grain Valley was facing pitchers who threw in the 80s and 90s.
Grain Valley scored one run in the first, eight in the second, two in the third, four in the fourth and eight in the fifth. Senior first baseman Kaden Jeffries was 1-for-3, with two runs scored and four RBIs; senior third baseman Nick Hooper was 2-for-5 with two runs scored and three RBIs; sophomore Brody Baker was 4-for-4 with an RBI; and sophomore Brek Sloan was 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI.
Meanwhile, Hayden Hermon got his first career varsity start on the mound as he surrendered on just one run in four innings and struck out four.
“My fastball was feeling good,” Herman said. “I just stuck with that and it worked. I mixed in a few curve balls.”
Grain Valley junior Jace Weems, left, had three hits and five RBIs and Hayden Hermon was the winning pitcher, only allowing one run in four innings during a 23-4 mercy-rule victory in five innings over Raytown Monday. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Seven GVHS students participated in a signing day ceremony at Grain Valley High School on April 13th to continue their athletic careers at the collegiate level.
Basketball - Elena Sanchez, Oak Hill Christian College
Cross Country - Mason McCain, Missouri Western State University
Cross Country/Track - Ella Casey, Southwest Baptist University
Football - Easton Knight, Avila University
Football - Gage Forkner, Quincy University
Soccer - Rian Handy, Metropolitan Community College
Track - Jada Cooper, Coe College
Grain Valley JV participated in the April 12th JV relays. Highlights include:
Girls distance relay:
Grain Valley High School 'A'. Fourth place with a time of 16:31.96.
(Alyssa Arndorfer, Taelor Mason, Emma Smith, Clara DeMoro)
Boys distance relay:
Grain Valley High School 'A'. Third place with a time of 12:57.84.
(David Roberson, Vincent Wilkins, Chris Fossinger, Adrian Bobzien)
Girls 100 meter hurdles:
1st place: Neveah Clausen (18.50).
Girls 100 meter dash:
1st place: Kierstin Parker (14.40)
Boys 1600 sprint medley:
3rd place: Grain Valley High School 'A' (4:14.65)
(Dominic Lunn, Lahndon Faltynowski, Chase Anderson, Chris Fossinger)
Boys 1600 meter run:
2nd place: Adrian Bobzien (5:22.66)
Girls 800 sprint medley:
Grain Valley High School 'A'. First place with a time of 2:06.04.
(Justice Goulden, Yvette Torres, Kierstin Parker, Taelor Mason)
Girls High Jump:
2nd place: Megan Davies Grain Valley 4-06.00
Girls Pole Vault:
1st place: Megan Prestia Grain Valley 9-00.00
2nd place: Ellie Stahl Grain Valley 7-06.00