by Michael Smith
Sometimes soccer can be a game of inches.
That was definitely the case in Grain Valley’s Class 4 District 6 championship game against Blue Springs South at Columbia Hickman High School.
After getting off to a hot start to start the game and taking a 1-0 lead into halftime, South rallied to take a 2-1 lead. Grain Valley had multiple chances to tie it up, but it's shot attempts were either slightly off or stopped by goalkeeper Siman Loethen.
The Jaguars’ second-half outburst, which resulted in three goals, ended the Eagles season as they fell 3-1 Friday.
“Tonight, we lacked getting shots on target,” Grain Valley head coach Brett Lewis said. “Emma hit the post twice. Soccer is just a cruel game sometimes. Things just didn’t bounce our way. I have been in so many games in which we were an inch off here and an inch off there.”
After South went up 2-1 with 26 minutes, 42 seconds left in the contest, had a handful of opportunities to tie it. In the 64th minute, junior Emma Thiessen had a direct free kick from just outside the top right corner of the 18-yard box. She was able to fit her shot through a thicket of defenders but the shot hit off the right post and bounced away from the goal.
Junior Kylee Bragaw had a shot from the same spot off a rebound with about 13 minutes left. She drilled a shot that appeared to be headed inside the left post, but Loethen made a diving stop.
Thiessen had the last best chance when she rolled a shot from halfway inside the penalty box and with Loethen out of position, the ball looked like it would cross the goal line. However, Loethen recovered quickly and knocked the ball away just before the ball crossed to keep the lead.
South freshman Haley Kramer put the game away with 19 seconds left when she bent a shot inside the left post from about 30 yards out.
“South players stepped up and limited our offense,” Lewis said. “I thought we had more shots than they did and created more offense than they did. But credit to them. They were able to counter us a couple of times.”
“We had a lot of opportunities in the box, we just couldn’t find that last pass and last shot.”
Grain Valley (20-5) controlled possession throughout the first half and got its lone goal off a mistake by the Jaguars. With the Eagles putting pressure on the South defense, Jaguar senior Cora Watkins accidently kicked the ball backward toward her own goal. Thiessen capitalized by putting in a close-range shot in the 23rd minute for a 1-0 lead.
“I will be honest, Grain Valley looked to be the better team for a big part of that game,” South veteran head coach Todd Findley said.
That score held until halftime, but South benefitted from a pair of rebounds to take the lead. A shot from a Jaguar deflected off a Grain Valley defender and Kramer was right there to drill a shot into the left side of the net to tie the game at 1-all in the 50th minute.
A little over three minutes later, Alyssa Guadagnano made the game-winner when a deflection came right to her inside Grain Valley’s 18-yard box and she punched one in on the left side of the net to put South up 2-1.
From there, the Eagles were snakebitten as their stellar season came to an end.
Grain Valley will return the majority of its team for the 2024 season as it loses just two seniors to graduation, including starting defender Lexi Nicholson.
“We have a really strong group that’s going to be seniors and that’s going to be exciting,” Lewis said. “These girls know what it’s like to be in a district title game and they know the atmosphere and what it takes. They will be ready to hit the ground running next year.”
Grain Valley junior Annabelle Totta pushes the ball up the field. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley senior Lexi Nicholson, left, and junior Meghan Knust share an emotional hug following a 3-1 loss to Blue Springs South in the Class 4 District 6 championship game Friday at Columbia Hickman High School. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Leave a Reply.
Grain Valley News
Grain Valley News is a free community news source published weekly online.
PO Box 2972
Grain Valley MO 64029