Lady Hornets post their ninth-straight win, fifth-straight shutout victory over the north St. Joseph foe Tuesday (May 7, 2019). Multiple CHS records reset
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — The only surprising element of the 2019 Chillicothe (Mo.) HS soccer Lady Hornets’ 3-0 regular-season home-finale victory Tuesday (May 7) was that it was not by a wider margin.
Only the excellence of an unidentified substitute goalkeeper inserted for the second half prevented Chillicothe’s ninth-consecutive triumph and fifth-straight by shutout over the Lady Irish from being lopsided.
At least a half-dozen CHS second-half shots that could have gone for goals were turned away, three of them on very-high-quality attempts from fairly short range and one diving stop on a 10-yards blast from in the middle about as good a stop as one will see on the high school level.
Despite that brilliance in the Midland Empire Conference clash, the Lady Hornets (14-4 overall, 5-1 conf.) still won comfortably on the strength of its record-setting combination of veteran defenders and goalkeeper and a balanced mix of veteran and youthful offensive threats.
CHS freshman Lucy Reeter scored what became the match-winning goal 6:41 into the action, rocketing a rising shot over the LHS starting goalkeeper from about 15 yards out on the offensive right side.
Reeter had the time and room to drill home her team-high 17th goal because of a fine through pass from senior midfielder Addie Ficken, who picked up her fourth assist of the season.
With the ball rarely leaving the Chillicothe attacking end of the Bob Fairchild Field pitch at Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II, the Lady Hornets doubled their lead in the 22nd minute, courtesy of two more youngsters who will be heard from more next year after the graduation of 10 players from this spring’s squad. However, it was one of those pending graduates who deserved a lion’s share of the credit for the ball ending up in the Lady Irish net.
With the ball on the CHS defensive end for one of its rare occasions in the first half, Stephens College-bound senior left inside back Devin Dowell saw some space ahead of her to the right and began dribbling that direction from about 15 yards on the defensive side of midfield.
Having initially beaten one Lafayette player with her initial burst, Dowell niftily out-flanked a second as she neared midfield, continuing to angle toward her right. Just across midfield, she deked past a third Lady Irish player to move into some new open space.
Turning to go more straight ahead, as Dowell crossed the yard-line 50 yards from the Lafayette goal, she had time to survey her options and recognized freshman MaKayla Vance, about 15 yards ahead on the outside right, had green turf in front of her and an angle to beat the nearest LHS back to that space. Having made the dynamic 25- to 30-yards crossfield run with the ball, Dowell stroked a well-paced airborne pass over the Lady Irish back and into Vance’s path.
The freshman reserve then did her share, chasing the ball down just before it reached the LHS penalty area on the offensive right side. With a touch or two to get her steps right, Vance sent a low, sinking line drive right at the ’keeper near the left (near) goalpost. By keeping it hard and low, Vance made it tough for the netminder to gauge whether it would reach her on the fly or bounce and thus uncertain how to try to catch it.
That indecision led to the ball, appearing to land just as it reached the goalkeeper, squirting through the ’keeper’s hands and rolling off to her right toward the middle of the pitch in front of the goal. Smartly reading the developing play, left outside forward Julia Stimpson, a sophomore reserve, already was on the move to that vicinity as Vance fired her shot. When the ball got away from the ’keeper, Stimpson won the short race to it and banged it into the unguarded net from a few yards away, making it 2-0, Chillicothe, after 21:11. It was Stimpson’s first varsity goal of her career.
Although continuing to control play, Chillicothe missed a couple of nice chances over the last 18-plus minutes of the opening half and reached intermission in front only 2-0.
With the veteran Lady Hornets, of whom second-year head coach Shannon Grable started all nine of his available seniors (Maggie Pfaff currently is battling a “bug” of some type and missed her second-straight match), unlikely to surrender a pair of Lafayette goals in the second half, there wasn’t much tension for the home team and fans as the last 40 minutes began.
Although not quite “firing at will” on the substitute goalkeeper, Chillicothe did generate a good bunch of quality scoring chances involving an array of players. However, only senior Sarah Graves, with a right-foot shot from a dozen yards off a pass from Reeter at 49:20 of the match was able to solve the LHS replacement.
Lafayette also had a bit more success in at least getting the ball near the CHS penalty area in the final half, but never could turn one of those advances into a true shot on goal. Finally, in the last 30 seconds, they got a semi-dangerous shot through the CHS back wall and headed toward the goal, but it was easily snatched up by senior netminder Kennedie Kieffer.
When the final second of the match ticked off the Litton Stadium scoreboard with the score at 3-0, what Grable pithily calls the “Lady Hornets’ defense law firm” of senior partners Elli Ross, Sydney Baxter, Kaylee Lewis, Dowell and ’keeper Kieffer had posted CHS’ 13th shutout triumph of the season.
That established a trio of new program standards, surpassing the 12 shutouts Kieffer and the 2018 Lady Hornets produced for most in a season by a goalkeeper and team. Kieffer also extended her CHS record for career shutouts to an even 30.
At the other end of the pitch, Reeter also extended a Lady Hornets record she recently claimed during her current stretch of four matches in a row with at least one goal.
With her 3-goals “hat trick” in the team’s 3-0 home win over Savannah last Thursday, the ninth grader boosted her goals total to 15, one more than the program’s previous high by a freshman. Like most CHS goal-scoring records, that had belonged to 2015 graduate Lindy Saunders, who netted the first 14 of her eventual 89 CHS goals as a frosh in 2012.
While not a record, Graves’ goal was No. 37 of her injury-abbreviated career. That’s the fifth-most in Lady Hornets history.
During Chillicothe’s current skein of nine victories in a row over St. Joseph: Lafayette, it now has outscored the Lady Irish, who had only 13 or 14 players available for the match, a composite 43-1.
Grable saluted his team for exhibiting “solid passing” and “a stingy defense” in the latest triumph, the 2019 team’s fourth in a row and 10th in the last 11 outings.
The Lady Hornets will wrap up regular-season play Friday at 5 p.m. at Maryville.
That clash both will determine which finishes second to MEC champion Kansas City: St. Pius X in the 2019 standings (CHS and MHS shared second with St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond behind Smithville a year ago) and potentially could serve as a preview of a potential first-round match in the Class 2 state tournament a couple of weeks from now.
Both teams are the No. 1 seeds and clear-cut favorites in next week’s Districts 15 and 16 tournaments, respectively. Should both prevail and advance to state, they’d meet in Chillicothe in the opening round of the state tournament.