(UPDATED, EXPANDED 12:30 A.M. MAY 11) Behind Maryville 1-0 at halftime, host Lady Hornets tie match midway through second half on Addie Ficken goal from about 30 yards, then get winner in final four minutes on Sarah Graves drive from 17 yards Thursday, May 10, 2018
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — With a dramatic comeback on their home turf in their 2018 regular-season finale Thursday afternoon, Chillicothe HS’ soccer Lady Hornets shaded Maryville 2-1 to gain their CHS-record 14th triumph of the season.
After Addie Ficken tied the match less than 30 seconds after play resumed following the mid-second-half hydration break, another junior, Sarah Graves weaved a dribble past two or three would-be MHS defenders to find some open space just inside the Maryville “18” and drilled a right-footed, cross-goal shot from 17 yards away that easily beat the Maryville goalkeeper for what stood up as the match-winner. Graves’ team-leading 15th goal came with only 3:42 left.
While they had to survive one hectic Lady Spoofhounds threat with a bit under a minute remaining, the Lady Hornets managed to, thus avenging the 6-1 defeat handed them at Maryville a few weeks earlier.
By answering the first-half goal (9:58 remaining) by MHS’ Morgan Pettlon, who pumped in five goals in the prior meeting, with two tallies in the last 20 minutes of the match, the CHS girls earned their sixth-consecutive victory, also a new program milestone.
Now 14-4, the Lady Hornets will enter postseason play – on their home turf at Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II – next week already having posted more wins than any of their 11 predecessors. The previous program record of 13 wins was achieved three years ago when Chillicothe won its district-championship match at Moberly.
Although it was a mathematical certainty regardless of Thursday’s result or what happens in the district tournament, this year’s CHS team – over 70 percent of the starting lineup of which is non-seniors – will conclude the spring with the highest winning percentage in program history, too.
The six victories in succession surpass 5-match streaks produced in each of the last three years.
The soccer Lady Hornets will try to stretch that streak to seven games next Tuesday when they take on Excelsior Springs in the second semifinal match of the Class 2 District 7 tournament they will host. Kickoff tentatively is set for 6:45 p.m., but could be delayed, if the prior match between top-seed Kansas City: St. Pius X and Cameron runs long.
Perhaps caught off-guard by the potency sophomore Pettlon brought to their initial encounter – she rang up five goals to fuel the rout, Chillicothe was defensively prepared for the rematch, having a player – usually quick junior Gracy Reeter – “mark” her all match. Between the shadowing and the normal effectiveness of the CHS backfield, Pettlon was able to get only a couple of quality scoring changes.
For 30 minutes, it looked like her cashing in on the first of those two in the 31st minute, along with classmate Laney Graham’s goalkeeping, would be enough to carry her team to victory again.
However, Chillicothe kept peppering the Maryville net and pressuring the MHS defense until finally it broke through.
Having missed one super scoring in the first seven minutes and then being unable to cash in three very good-to-excellent opportunities in less than a minute late in the first half, the Lady Hornets actually capitalized on a bit of a fluke to tie things midway through the second half.
About 20 seconds after play resumed following the mandatory mid-half hydration stoppage, the ball was inside the MHS defensive third when the Lady Spoofhounds mishandled it. It came to offensive midfielder Ficken in the middle of the pitch about 30 yards from the Maryville goal.
With the Lady ’Hounds having superior numbers between her and the net, but with time and room to launch a shot over those defenders, the Chillicothe junior let fly a drive with just the right combination of pace and placement. The ball sailed just inside the goalpost to the left of Graham for the equalizer with 18:47 remaining in regulation time.
A couple of minutes later, a rare misjudgment by CHS backs allowed a Lady Spoofhound to come into the Chillicothe penalty area with no one between her and Lady Hornets junior goalkeeper Kennedie Kieffer. However, as Kieffer aggressively challenged, the MHS player nudged the ball past her, but right to retreating inside back Sydney Baxter about five yards in front of the CHS net. The junior chipped the ball upfield to the edge of the penalty area where teammate Devin Dowell was able to contest a Lady Spoofhound for it and eventually defuse the threat.
About three minutes after that, it was Chillicothe’s turn to take a crack at scoring the go-ahead goal.
A Harlie Jones corner kick from the offensive left side was headed away from the goalmouth area, but ended up right back on Jones’ foot. She once again played it to the area in front of the net, where three times teammates seemed to have a chance to let a short-range shot fly. None got away cleanly and avoided being blocked by Maryville and, after the flurry, the ball was sent upfield out of danger, keeping the match deadlocked with 13 minutes to go.
At that point, while both teams made attempts to construct prime scoring chances, neither could, thus making it seem likely the match would necessitate overtime.
However, just as the stadium clock ticked under four minutes remaining, Chillicothe gained control of the ball on the east side (offensive right) of Bob Fairchild Field at around midfield.
The ball was played diagonally ahead to Graves, who had only returned to the pitch from an extended rest break on the hot day a minute or two before.
Fresher than the Maryville defenders because of that, the tall junior took possession of the ball about 35-40 yards distant from the MHS net at the north end of the field and, utilizing touches with each foot and quick, short changes of direction, angled past one Lady ’Hound, then another. Now within about 25 yards of the goal, Graves veered to her right a bit farther to out-distance an oncoming MHS back while moving away from another in pursuit off her left shoulder.
The maneuver to the right both evaded the defender in front of her and led her into a patch of open turf. That allowed her, with a quick stutter-step, to set up a full stride into a right-footed shot from now a yard inside the Maryville “18” (15-yards deep penalty area).
With the MHS goalkeeper caught fairly deep (near the goal line) in her net, likely anticipating the backs in front of her to ward off Graves’ rush, the Lady Hornet had a lot of net to look at. She chose to pull the shot back to her left to the far side of the net, driving it low and plenty hard to get past Graham and enter the goal about five yards inside the right post at the 76:18 mark.
Now needing to protect a lead for less than four minutes, Chillicothe seemed to be in good shape, although by no means home free.
For the most part, it thwarted now-desperate Maryville’s attempts to attack, but one nearly proved catastrophic.
A through ball by the Lady ’Hounds was tracked down by a retreating CHS back, but her attempt to clear the ball beyond the east sideline from inside the penalty area instead skidded over the end line with about 1:10 left. That meant a dangerous corner kick for MHS.
Setting up the ball rapidly as about a half-dozen teammates populated the CHS penalty area with seven or eight Lady Hornets plus Kieffer, a Lady ’Hound attempted to hook a head-high, right-footed shot on frame around the nearest (right) goalpost.
Hurrying through a crowd of several players from both teams, Kieffer did not have time to fully assess whether ball was going to turn quickly enough to curl over the end line before reaching the post. Rather than risk a misjudgment, she reached up and snared the descending ball at around shoulder height .
However, still on the move as she did so, Kieffer’s momentum was about to take her across the end line out of bounds, which presumably would have led to at least another corner kick. Thinking it wise to avoid that, she tossed the ball back over her shoulder, keeping it on the field of play, although she was now temporarily outside it herself.
Her unexpected toss sent the ball right toward a Maryville player only about five yards from the goal, but, with several CHS players scurrying toward her, the Lady ’Hound rushed her shot attempt and it rolled slowly wide of the net and beyond the end line, stopping play.
As additional seconds ticked off, Chillicothe set the ball for the ensuing goal kick and Baxter blasted that kick well upfield. In the remaining 40 or so seconds, Maryville never got enough control of the ball to create a new, last-gasp attack and the ball was on the MHS end of the pitch was the final seconds of Chillicothe’s comeback win ticked off.