by John Unrein
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Grain Valley Lady Eagles soccer team huddled at midfield to celebrate their tightly contested 1-0 victory over Notre Dame St. Louis on June 2nd. A frenzy of jumping up and down ensued by the Lady Eagles prior to the coaching staff shaking hands and joining them. The jubilant scene at World Wide Technology Soccer Park was for good reason. The Lady Eagles will play for their first soccer title in school history and is only the second program to advance to a state title game after softball did the same in 2010.
The semifinal game that propels the Lady Eagles into the championship was full of drama. Goalkeeper Camihle Williams delivered her biggest performance of the season in net for Grain Valley. The sophomore stopped all sixteen shots on goal she faced. The stage was not too big for Williams in her shutout effort.
The first half witnessed a well-timed jumping deflection in the upper left-hand corner of the goal by Williams during the 29th minute of the game. Williams would match that effort during the second half by making repeated sliding saves while covering up the soccer ball. All of which left Williams elated to talk about Grain Valley’s win during her postgame comments.
“I see things with math eyes. I am always calculating trajectory and angles. The jumping save in the first half was as much being determined to get the job done though,” Williams said.
“My defense played so well in front of me tonight. I was able to scoop up anything that got through. I just kept thinking I want to play in the championship game. To get to be the first goalie to play in this game for Grain Valley is awesome.”
The Lady Eagles leaned on the same offensive formula they have had previous success with in scoring the lone goal of the game. Grain Valley would push the ball up field through their midfielders and look for an opening or distribute the ball wide along the sideline to their forwards to press ahead. If the forwards were successful in getting to the goalie box, they would look to center the ball back to a midfielder or take an open shot.
Such was the case in the second half when forward Emma Thiessen found space at the top of the goalie box prior to depositing the ball in the corner of the net during the 58th minute of play. Thiessen would be congratulated first by midfielder Raena Childers. The two would share a hug and a shriek before being joined by the rest of their team.
Childers unselfish play has continued throughout the playoffs as the senior has drawn considerable attention by opposing teams being determined not to let her have many opportunities to score. Something taken in stride by Childers as she has used her feet for passing as much as shooting. The result has been the youth of the Lady Eagles stepping up to provide the needed offensive punch.
“I am super proud of Emma (Thiessen) that she got to finish that goal. I flicked the ball to her with the outside of my foot and it landed in between her and three defenders. I yelled at her to ‘turn’ and she did before she put the ball in net,” Childers said.
“Our mindset is to win every game we play. The number of people around me dictates that if I try to dribble through everyone, I will fall or get fouled. It has turned out great in that I look for someone wearing the same jersey and this team continues to deliver.”
Not to be outdone by her teammates was Grain Valley defender Sophie Broockerd. The senior played possessed in stopping multiple charges by Notre Dame St. Louis. Broockerd mirrored oncoming players and waited for the soccer ball to get far enough away from their foot before she would pounce. The result was typically a deflection or Broockerd winning possession and looking for a teammate downfield.
Arguably, the only blemish to Broockerd’s night was the second half yellow card she earned. Broockerd would not let an open opponent get her timing to set up for a shot before she was tackled. The result was Notre Dame St. Louis not being able to capitalize on the subsequent free kick and the Lady Eagles maintaining their lead.
“Going into this game, I was determined that we were going to come out of it with a win. There was nothing else to do but stay strong during the second half and find what was needed within us to come out on top,” Broockerd said.
“Getting to play for a state title is a great payoff for this team and during my senior year.”
Grain Valley head soccer coach Tyler Nichol was not easy to recognize prior to the game. The man at the helm for the Lady Eagles had shed his curly locks with a final four haircut. The effort by his team is what stood out though as Nichol summarized his team’s success well.
“Camihle (Williams) was phenomenal tonight. To put up another shutout during a late postseason game speaks to her willingness to do whatever it takes. Both Williams and Broockerd did a good job against an opponent that was deceptively fast and did a good job of challenging our limits,” Nichol said.
“Williams also did a good job organizing our defense in the middle through instruction based on what she saw. Sophie (Broockerd) was joking before the game that she was going to play in two state championships this year as her club team won a title earlier this year. Broockerd is an incredible kid who has an endless motor. She was determined to will this team.”
Nichol continued, “It is fun to watch the kids execute our message and what we work on all the time. The emphasis has been to kick the ball away from the keeper and tuck it into a corner. Thiessen did a great job of that with her goal. Cool and composed is the perfect way to describe Emma Thiessen and she proved it again tonight.”
The Grain Valley Lady Eagles improve to an overall season record of 22-2-1 in route to playing in the Class 3 MSHSAA Girls Soccer Championship against Fort Zumwalt South (21-2) at 6:30 pm on June 3rd.
Emma Thiessen breaks into the clear prior to scoring for the Lady Eagles.
Photo credit: Valley News staff
Goalkeeper Cahmile Williams watches Sevi Aumua clear the ball from the goalie's box.
Photo credit: Valley News staff
Sophie Broockerd possesses the ball after stopping a charge of the opponent.
Photo credit: Valley News staff