by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley girls soccer team had its best season in program history in 2021.
Not only did the Eagles finish the season with a sparkling 22-3-1 record, they made it to the state final four for the first time ever and made it the state championship game before falling to Fort Zumwalt South.
With a breakout season such as this, the postseason accolades were sure to follow. The Eagles had four players make the Class 3 all-state squad, three on the first team and one on the second team.
Grain Valley was led by senior Raena Childers who was the leader of the Eagles and was named co-offensive player of the year with Fort Zumwalt South sophomore Brooke Cattoor. Childers put up gaudy stats, scoring 57 goals and dishing out nine assists.
“I am super happy that I was able to get first-team all-state and was happy for my teammates that made the list,” Childers said. “That included two freshmen which is incredible.”
Childers is the third of four sisters to come through the program and her sisters Rylan and Reighan also made the all-state list more than once. Grain Valley head coach noted Childers’ competitive edge as a big reason she was an elite player.
“She is such a competitor, man,” Nichol said. “That sets her apart from other players. She is probably the most competitive player I have ever coached. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are or who she goes up against, she is going to give it her all.
“In the state final game, things didn’t go our way. She had the mindset that we weren’t going to get shut out. No one shut us out all year. She took us over on a couple of great goals near the end of the game.”
She was joined on the all-state list by Annabelle Totta, Sophie Brookerd and Emma Thiessen.
Thiessen, a freshman, was a great all-around player for the Eagles and was especially sharp on give-and-go plays. She finished the season with 29 goals and 23 assists which landed her on the first team.
“She’s a great talent,” Nichol said. “I think she had a hat trick in the first game of the season. She didn’t waste any time getting going and figuring things out. She’s so creative and is super good on the ball and has great touch. It’s so hard to take the ball away from her.”
Thiessen was surprised she received the honor.
“It’s a pretty great honor, especially as a freshman,” Thiessen said. “It’s definitely a very cool honor. My teammates helped me and Coach Nichol and Coach Lewis had a big role in helping me make all-state.
“I feel like I improved on my finishing and creating opportunities for Raena or my teammates. They also played really well. It went both ways.”
One of those teammates who played well was freshman Annabelle Totta, who finished with 17 goals and 18 assists to make the second team.
“It’s exciting to know that I still have three more years of high school and I can keep improving,” Totta said. “I feel so blessed and honored to play on varsity and get the playing time that I did.
“I think I have the speed on the outside to be able to beat defenders. I was also able to get it to Emma or Raena to bury it back into the net.”
Totta was a player Nichol was high on before she even played her first varsity game.
“She was great,” Nichol said. “She played a little out of position. She was a center midfielder but we played her on the outside on the left mainly. We wanted to use her speed a little bit. She was good at taking on players 1-on-1 and she was really good at touch passes.
“She didn’t have as much confidence as the others near the beginning of the season and she just developed more confidence as the season progressed.
While Totta, Childers and Thiessen helped power the offense, Broockerd was the heart and soul of the defense often coming up with clutch deflections and steals with the game on the line as the Eagles’ center back. She led a defense that notched 14 shutouts and allowed just .77 goals per game.
“She’s been a four-year starter for us and a tremendous leader,” Nichol said.
“She understands the game so well. She is so aggressive and loves to step up to the ball. Whenever we needed her in the back, she always stepped up. She throws her body on the line all the time and made deflections left and right.”