by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley girls soccer team had a battle on its hands.
In Monday’s match with St. Michael The Archangel Catholic, the Guardians were putting pressure on the Eagles’ defense early and often. Not only that, but the Eagles were missing starters senior Rian Handy to an illness and junior Kylie Barnett to a knee injury.
That left Grain Valley without two key pieces to its attack and only one substitute at their disposal on the bench. The Eagles managed to keep St. Michel off the scoreboard while sophomore Meghan Knust jump started her team with a goal late in the first half in a 2-0 win at Moody Murry Memorial Field.
Grain Valley’s back line had a bend-but-don’t break mentality as the Guardians created a good amount of chances throughout, but the Eagles managed to not allow a goal.
“Our back line was organized for the most part,” Grain Valley head coach Brett Lewis said. “There were a couple of balls that squirted through. For the most part, our back line was pretty good.”
With the Eagles missing two crucial pieces on offense, Knust helped fill in the void with a goal late in the first half. She had a direct free kick from the left wing and she buried it for a 1-0 lead.
Before the shot, she got some words from all-state forward Emma Thiessen.
“Emma came up to me and said, ‘You got it?’” Knust recalled. “I said, ‘Yep.’ I just aimed for the upper 90 and got it.”
Lewis had high praise for Knust afterward.
“Meghan is a great defensive center mid. She’s one of the best in the area. She wins a lot of balls and plays simple,” Lewis said. “She’s invaluable for us in the midfield.”
Sophomore Kylie Bragaw gave the Eagles an insurance goal in the 43rd minute when she received a cross from Thiessen and drilled a shot inside the left post for the second and final goal.
“I was actually shocked because I did not think that was going in,” Bragaw said of her goal. “Emma laid that off in the perfect spot and I was able to get off a shot.”
While the Guardians were able to pressure Grain Valley’s back line, the Eagles were able to create chances of their own off of counter attacks and crisp ball movement.
“We were able to connect pretty well, especially with players down with injuries,” Bragaw said. “I think we did a great job pushing through and connecting as teammates.”
Even though the Eagles got an important win, the players said there is still room for improvement.
“We have to work on finishing better,” Knust said. “But we’re definitely growing as a team and finding each other on passes.”
It will help when the Eagles get Barnett and Handy back, but Lewis noted he’s unsure when Barnett can return as she will get an MRI on her knee.
“We don’t have a lot of depth,” Lewis said. “We had more girls to go in, but varsity is a higher level and it is tougher for some of the other girls. St. Michael is a good team. I told the girls to be prepared to play a lot of minutes because we are low on players.”
Grain Valley sophomore Meghan Knust, left, and sophomore Kylee Bragaw each scored a goal in Grain Valley's 2-0 victory against St. Michael The Archangel Catholic Monday at home.
Photo credit: Michael Smith