Soccer Hornets move to 2-0 by upending visiting Kirksville at home

A dramatic walkoff win and increasingly-proficient performance marked 2017 season-opening, home victories by Chillicothe High School’s softball and volleyball varsity teams Thursday.
Tied 2-2 since the third inning after Laney Gaston’s game-tying, 2-runs double, CHS’ softball Lady Hornets got consecutive 1-out singles by their Jones trio – Harlie, Abby, and Molly, the top three batters in the lineup – to score the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning and edge Lawson 3-2 late Thursday afternoon.
That evening, the largely-inexperienced volleyball Lady Hornets battled through some first-game mistakes to edge Trenton 25-22, then ran away with the second game 25-9 to sweep that match.
Also Thursday, the soccer Hornets – defeated by Kirksville three times, including in the district-championship match, a year ago – got a measure of revenge by shutting out the Tigers 2-0, also at home. It was the booters’ second victory of 2017, both by shutout.
In action Thursday, as well, was the girls’ tennis team, which started its season with back-to-back Midland Empire Conference victories Tuesday and Wednesday. The Lady Hornets hosted Marshall, long-time regional power. No results had been received at the time of this posting.

Flurry of hits saves CHS diamond girls
Having struggled all game to make solid, effective contact against the slower-paced deliveries from Lawson pitcher Carly Anthony, Chillicothe’s softball squad finally adjusted its swing timing as it started through the batting order a fourth time and registered the dramatic triumph.
Lured off-balance onto their front foot time and time again, Chillicothe repeatedly hit soft, harmless popups and shallow fly balls for most of the game before sisters Abby and Molly Jones followed unrelated Harlie’s hit with base knocks of their own in the home seventh. Winning pitcher Mo. Jones’ blow easily brought H. Jones home from second base with the game-ending run.
Had it not been for the mostly-inexperienced lower half of the lineup’s productive first at-bats of the season, Chillicothe would have been under the gun as it came to bat in the seventh, rather than on even terms.
After Anthony set down the first five Lady Hornets she faced in very easy manner, sophomore Jordan Hibner, who drew the start at second base, smacked a hit to center field with two outs in the second. Veteran senior catcher McKenna Poling added an infield hit off the pitcher’s glove to bring Gaston up with two on.
The lefthanded-batting junior, who won the starting first base job in preseason practices, fouled back one hittable pitch above the belt, but squared up another a couple of offerings later and sent a line drive a bit to the left field side of straightaway center. The LHS center fielder just missed spearing it on the run on the backhand, a miss which – with the runners off with the crack of the bat with two away – meant Poling could follow Hibner around and score. That pushed the Lady Hornets in front, 2-1.
The lead didn’t last long as Lawson scored again in the top of the third, but from there Mo. Jones largely settled in with her pitching and, despite a couple of mild threats, blanked the Lady Cardinals the last four innings.
The senior righthander finished allowing only five hits, most of them in the first three frames, and neither of the runs was earned. The CHS hurler struck out only two, but walked merely one.
Hibner and Mo. Jones each had two hits in the 9-hits Lady Hornets attack. Five other players had a hit each.
Chillicothe’s next scheduled softball game is to be Tuesday at St. Joseph: Lafayette.

Spikers settle into groove, capture debut
Led by the only two players who saw any significant varsity playing time on last year’s 20-wins team, the youthful CHS volleyball Lady Hornets got better and better as their opening match went along Thursday.
With junior setter Elli Ross earning 10 assists and serving 11 winning points and lone senior Ruthie Vinson matching the service-points total while drilling four kill shots, the Lady Hornets steadily pulled away from Trenton’s visiting Lady Bulldogs to win 25-22, 25-9 at home.
CHS won 11 of the 13 points hitter Vinson started and 11 of the 15 Ross served. Ross had five aces, a total matched by new starter Kaylee Lewis, and Vinson had three.
The Lady Hornets converted just under 25 percent of its 45 “set” attempts – all but four of them from Ross – into winning shots. In addition to her effective serving, Lewis was the most prolific and efficient of Chillicothe’s would-be spikers, delivering her team-leading six  “kills” in 13 tries. Kennedie Kieffer, like Lewis a junior, had five successful spikes.
Trenton had trouble generating any significant attacking shots. Chillicothe made only five “digs” and three “blocks” all match.
Next on the volleyball Lady Hornets’ docket will be Tuesday play at Brookfield.

Soccer Hornets stonewall second-straight opponent
Playing solidly on their own half of the pitch all evening and capitalizing twice more on so-called set pieces, the CHS soccer boys posted their second shutout in as many ’17 outings Thursday, blanking Kirksville 2-0 at CHS’ Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II.
Defeated three times by the Tigers a year ago by a combined count of 7-2, the Hornets undoubtedly benefitted from the absence, due to injury, of the would-be KHS junior who scored five of the Tigers’ seven goals against them a year back. According to Chillicothe head coach, Reger Nelson sustained a knee injury during last spring’s track-and-field season and will miss all of this soccer campaign.
While Kirksville had several other members of last year’s district champs still available, smart, alert defensive play by the hosts virtually eliminated high-quality scoring threats. That left senior goalkeeper Drew Toedebusch needing to make only a couple of high-caliber stops to notch his second shutout already this year.
Throughout the first half especially, but effectively all match, the Hornets midfielders and backs routinely either stepped up with perfect timing to intercept attacking pass attempts, stripped the ball off KHS players’ feet in close quarters, or kept them shielded from getting into quality scoring territory.
"This was a total team effort,” CHS head coach Tim Cunningham praised his tropps. “Our effort and intensity was incredible for the entire 80 minutes."
What turned out to be the only scoring needed to emerge triumphant came on a fine 3-way collaboration near the mid-point of the first half.
A Kirksville infraction about 40 yards from its goal provided heavy-footed Chillicothe senior back Hunter Horton a chance for a free kick from there. His right-footed line drive was redirected by senior defensive midfielder Gavin Seeley inside the penalty area toward the offensive left.
As it floated past him about 12 yards out from the goal line and directly in front of the net, forward Bryce Hague – his back to the goal – jumped and delivered something of a sidesaddle “bicycle kick” that changed the ball’s angle back in the other direction, popping it up into the air over a defender and toward the goal.
With the Kirksville goalkeeper dashing from his initial position closer to the left goalpost (from his perspective) across the goalmouth toward the right post on Seeley’s deflection that direction, he could not reverse course and was left to stand and watch as Hague’s nifty boot bounced into the net just inside the left goalpost (from the defense’s perspective) for a 1-0 lead. For Hague, it was his second goal of the new season.
The match remained 1-0, Chillicothe, for just over 50 minutes before Hague’s low corner kick from the right side was knocked down by a KHS defender only about five yards in front of the goal. CHS’ Jacob Anderson slid forward to get a foot on the loose ball just before the Tigers could gain control of it and nudged it softly past the goalkeeper, who was just starting to come forward to try to cover the ball. With barely 12 minutes remaining, the Hornets had moved ahead 2-0.

For Hague, it was his second point (goal or assist) of the night and fifth already this season after totaling seven points (five goals, two assists) in all of 2016.
Kirksville, which had two or three players have to leave at least temporarily, apparently with leg cramps, managed one somewhat-challenging attempt on goal in the dwindling remaining time, but Toedebusch moved to his right to spear it without too much strain for the last of his six saves.
The CHS booters next will be at St. Joseph: Lafayette Tuesday.