by John Unrein
Big plays from individual performances allowed for the Grain Valley Eagles Boys Soccer team to shut out the Raytown South Cardinals during their district semifinal playoff game on Monday, November 4th. A stubborn defense led by Junior Defender Nathan Manning and Senior Goalie Bryant Madden combined for the shutout 3-Nil by Grain Valley over their opponent.
Offensive scoring for the Eagles came off the foot of Senior Midfielder Jack Knust. His hat trick of three goals would be all the scoring his team would need to advance to the district final against the Kansas City East High School Bears.
The Eagles offense maintained their shots on goal advantage ten to nine for the game. Grain Valley was able to get or retain control of the soccer ball at midfield throughout much of the game.
This permitted them to use their speed to pass or dribble the ball with an offensive surge that left Raytown South without an answer. Grain Valley’s ability to stay on sides along with getting off a shot on goal prior to entering the Cardinal’s goalie box paid dividends.
Knust’s first goal came with 7:03 left in the first half. Knust would follow that up with a scoring strike with 30:09 left in the second half, prior to completing his scoring on a penalty kick with 4:38 left in the game.
“My teammates set me up tonight at the right time. I was fortunate enough to finish on those occasions and contribute to our win,” Knust said.
“On the penalty shot, I wanted to see how he (the goalie) would approach me. He was late to step and close out the distance between us and I was able to angle the ball to the right for the goal.”
Grain Valley’s defense was likewise just as ungenerous. Manning used his height and timing successfully to make a tackle save for his team in the goalie’s box with 21:01 left in the second half. Preventing the goal changed the body language of Raytown South and detoured the momentum they were trying to build.
“I knew they would be playing through number ten (Forward Riley Mickelson) a lot. I saw him running down the sideline. I understood they would try to slot one into the middle. I had to get in between the ball and the shooter,” Manning said.
“Our coaches have been preaching all season to be proactive and not reactive. So, I found myself in the right place at the right time and made the save.”
Madden would contribute to the shutout as well with five saves. Two of which included excellent individual effort. Madden timed the lean of his jump perfectly to make a fingertip save at the top of the crossbar during the first half.
Furthermore, the Eagles goalie would dive forward on a scoop save with 12:34 left in the second half. Madden’s approach and grip under the ball would prevent a ricochet as the Cardinals offense closed in.
“I had to get my body in front of the ball on the save in the second half because I knew they would be looking for the rebound. They had two of their most dangerous players close to the goal and I couldn’t afford them a second chance,” Madden said.
“The shot in the first half I was ready for since we have been rehearsing free kicks a lot in practice. Reading the ball off the kick allowed me to get up at the right time and prevent a goal in helping my team.”
Eagles Head Soccer Coach Tyler Nichol was delighted with his team’s performance.
“Between Jack (Knust) as our center attacking mid and our two forwards, they all have significant sudden speed. That benefited us tonight in our scoring. Especially, Jack with his low center of gravity and how he uses it to his advantage. Bryant (Madden) also came up big time. We’ve told him late in the year that he was going to have to come up with some big time saves that would make a difference in the game that we wouldn’t expect from him. He delivered on that tonight,” Nichol said.
“Manning’s kick save was a high IQ play. You realize that the guys beat to the end line and your goalkeeper is pulled out of the goal, you got to get in between your man and the goal and prevent them from scoring.”