Junior forward scores three times in 18 minutes in first half of second half Thursday (March 22), while defense, goalkeeper Kieffer ring up second shutout in as many 2018 matches
MOBERLY, Mo. — Having missed essentially all of her sophomore season, due to a knee injury, after being the team’s top scorer as a freshman in 2016, junior Sarah Graves of the Chillicothe (Mo.) High School soccer Lady Hornets is making up for lost time.
After scoring the only goal of the Lady Hornets’ 2018 season opener – a 1-0 home triumph over Kirksville this past Monday, Graves picked the right-hand side of the net three times in the first 20 minutes of the second half Thursday (March 22) to burst open a scoreless match at Moberly and pace CHS to its second-straight victory, 3-0.
Moberly (1-1) didn’t fare much better than North Central Missouri Conference counterpart Kirksville did in trying to generate an attack against Chillicothe’s veteran midfielders and back. Although a specific number of MHS shots on goal wasn’t relayed by Lady Hornets head coach Shannon Grable this time, it didn’t exceed Kirksville’s shotless performance by much, if any, as backs Sydney Baxter, Kaylee Lewis, Mykel Heese, and Elli Ross largely cordoned off the CHS goal area. That made it fairly easy again for junior goalkeeper Kennedie Kieffer to pick up her second shutout of the season and seventh of her varsity career.
At the other end of the natural-grass field in front of Moberly High School, Graves cashed in from inside “the 18” (penalty area) for each of her goals.
After, according to Grable, pressuring the Moberly defense and goalkeeper repeatedly in the opening 40 minutes, but without a payoff, the Lady Hornets sharpened their passing in the second half, leading to the breakthrough.
Just less than a minute into the second half, junior midfielder Devin Dowell used her quickness to gain possession in the middle of the pitch about 35 yards away from the MHS net. As seen on UclickTV’s live videostream of the match, she pushed the ball ahead to forward Graves at the top of the penalty area. Graves niftily eluded a Lady Spartans would-be defender before cranking a right-footed shot about head-high just off the inside of the right goalpost and in from about 15 yards away.
The same duo combined again 11 minutes later to double the CHS lead.
After a stoppage, following an injury to CHS senior outside midfielder Harlie Jones – she later returned to action, Chillicothe took a corner kick from the offensive right side. The kick was cleared out of the goalmouth area by MHS and went right to a Lady Spartan out toward midfield.
However, that player misplayed the ball in trying to settle it, instead directing it back toward the middle of the field and her own team’s penalty area.
There, Dowell, who had been positioned deep inside the MHS penalty area for the free kick, outraced a Moberly player to the ball near the top of “the 18” and tapped the ball a few yards closer to the MHS goal with her right foot into the path of Graves.
The CHS forward outmaneuvered one defender alongside her and another in front of her long enough to try a sliding, right-footed shot from about 12 yards away from the goal. Hugging the ground, the shot again was well-placed toward the far side of the net to Graves’ left and scooted in untouched for a 2-0 Chillicothe lead in the 52nd minute.
The Chillicothe junior forward’s savvy and alertness created the sequence for her third goal of the day.
She positioned herself only about 25 yards away from the MHS goal as the hosts’ goalkeeper set up for a goal kick in the 59th minute of the match.
When the kick didn’t have much “oomph,” Graves was ready to step in front of the MHS back the ball was headed toward not far outside “the 18.” After gaining control, she directed the ball toward the middle of the field where the recovered Jones was dashing toward her and then filtered a few yards ahead into open space, but not so far ahead to go offside (beyond the last Moberly non-goalkeeper defender between herself and the goal line).
Jones quickly read what Graves was doing and directed the ball back toward her in some open space to the offensive right of the net. Deftly controlling the nicely-placed pass, the forward got past one defender to within about 10 yards of the goal and then, hesitating ever so briefly to let an onrushing back’s momentum carry her out of position, Graves again launched a low, right-footed shot toward the far side of the goal. Easily eluding the goalkeeper, the curling ball held its line just enough to contact the inside of the right goalpost and ricochet into the net for a 3-0 lead and her “hat trick.”
With the comfortable lead, Chillicothe handily controlled play through the final half of the second segment to improve to 2-0, both via shutouts.
The Lady Hornets' next match is to be Tuesday (March 27) at home against always-rugged Smithville.