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.”