Records-shattering CHS booters will face Kirksville a fourth time for district title, state berth Thursday night at 7 at Chillicothe's Litton Stadium II
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Fate apparently decreed at some point what the final score of any 2019 high school girls’ soccer match between Chillicothe and Moberly had to be.
Having registered home and away 7-0 triumphs over MHS’ Lady Spartans during the regular season, Chillicothe’s Lady Hornets seemed likely to surpass that total when the teams met in the Missouri Class 2 District 15 Tournament semifinals Tuesday (May 14), amassing a 7-0 margin with more than 23 minutes of match time left.
However, after the next seven minutes passed with neither side finding the scoring range, the first cell of what proved to be several thunderstorms which passed across north Missouri Tuesday evening triggered lightning close enough to Chillicothe’s Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II that play was halted for safety reasons.
With at least a 30-minutes break required by Missouri State High School Activities Association precautionary regulations, after a few minutes of examination of weather radar images and discussion, Moberly’s head coach made both a practical and ultimately prudent decision (the weather would have prevented play from resuming for several hours) and voluntarily conceded the lopsided match with 15:49 of regulation time unplayed.
By doing so, he cemented the final score at the identical 7-0 spread of the teams’ two prior ’19 meetings.
The expected victory propels CHS (16-4) into the district tournament championship match for a second year in a row, this time pitting the Lady Hornets against Kirksville for a fourth time this spring. Kirksville (10-10-2) had punched its ticket to the finals immediately before CHS’ win, posting their match’s last eight goals to blow out Cameron 9-1.
This season’s three prior Chillicothe-Kirksville clashes – one on each side’s artificial home turf and one on a neutral, natural field during Moberly’s Lady Spartans Invitational Tournament – have seen the Lady Hornets post shutout triumphs. After winning 1-0 in double-overtime at Kirksville early in the season and 1-0 at Moberly in midseason, CHS prevailed 3-0 at home last week.
Thursday’s 7 p.m. District 15 title tilt will be the Lady Hornets’ fourth crack at a district crown in their program’s 13-seasons history. They won their only district championship and trip to state in 2015. Should they earn a second Thursday, they’d then host the District 16 champion – either Maryville or Savannah, both of which Chillicothe has defeated in every meeting in 2019 – this Saturday at a to-be-determined time.
Tuesday’s CHS totally-expected dominance of Moberly allowed this year’s team and players to continue their all-out assault on the still-relatively-young program’s records book.
Win No. 16 represents a new season high, surpassing the mark the team entered sharing with last year’s 15-5 squad.
Doing it by shutout extended several in-progress Chillicothe record-setting efforts. It was the hosts’ sixth whitewash in a row, the team’s 15th of 2019, and senior goalkeeper Kennedie Kieffer’s 15th of the year – all marks that are being reset in 2019.
In addition, for Kieffer, doughnut No. 15 of this season hikes her career record to 32, nearly matching the combined total of her first two seasons in net.
On the offensive side of things, a new Lady Hornets standard was established with Tuesday’s first goal.
Returning from missing a pair of matches with illness, senior forward Maggie Pfaff used her body to deflect home classmate Sydney Baxter corner kick from the offensive right only 1:42 into the contest.
The goal not only proved to, technically, be the match-winner, but was Pfaff’s 10th of 2019. With her reaching that not-inconsequential plateau, previously reached and surpassed by classmate Sarah Graves and freshman Lucy Reeter, Chillicothe’s girls have three players with at least 10 goals in the same season for the first time ever.
While not producing a new team record, Graves did advance toward a potential new mark while also reaching a career milestone by notching her second 3-goals “hat trick” of the season.
Her quick pair of tallies in the 21st and 22nd minutes and her header redirection of another Baxter right corner kick in the 57th minute hiked the senior forward/midfielder’s career goals total to exactly 40. Despite having missed essentially all of her sophomore season with a major knee injury, Graves caught early Lady Hornets soccer mainstay Madeline Brick for fourth place on CHS’ all-time goals list. Only one ahead of them is recent standout Karson Keithley, meaning Graves is within striking distance of ending her excellent career No. 3 all-time behind only record-holder Lindy Saunders and second-place Rochelle Gillilan, each of whom played four full seasons.
Not just a finisher on the attack, Graves’ perfect pass setting up Reeter’s team-leading 19th goal of this season (also a team record for freshmen) earned the senior her 10th assist of the year. That’s two shy of Saunders’ single-season team record, according to C-T records research.
Chillicothe’s other two goals against Moberly Tuesday were produced in noteworthy fashion by players who normally aren’t in position to put the ball in the twine.
Following Pfaff’s quick goal, Chillicothe continued to heap pressure on the overwhelmed Moberly defense and, before six minutes had been completed, had solved the Lady Spartans again.
Reeter forced the ball into the MHS “18” (18-yards deep penalty area) on the dribble, only to quickly pivot and direct the ball backward into the path of oncoming attacking midfielder Magy Thomas. The junior continued her sharp, increasingly-confident play in the second half of the season by ripping a hard, rising shot from 26 yards out over both a couple of defender between her and the goal and high over the left shoulder of the MHS netminder into the top left corner of the goal. The tally at the 5:52 mark made it 2-0, Chillicothe.
Graves’ first two goals of the evening – only 66 seconds apart – doubled the CHS lead before senior inside back Devin Dowell tasted the sweet wine of goal scoring for the first time this season only two minutes later.
On the third of what would be four occasions of CHS scoring as a result of excellent corner kicks by Baxter, Dowell – lurking at the edge of the goalie’s box – patiently held her position as a Lady Spartan’s attempt at a mid-air clearing of Baxter’s drive from the offensive left corner looped high in the air back toward the MHS goal. When the ball’s descent landed it on the front top portion of the crossbar, resulting in a carom back into the pitch only a few yards from the middle of the goal, Dowell, already signed to play collegiately at Stephens College in Columbia, Mo., next school year, was the first player to track it down. With her back to the net, she caught the ball with the top of her right instep and hooked it into the goal for a 5-0 Chillicothe lead with only 23:36 elapsed.
With CHS head coach Shannon Grable already substituting liberally to give underclassmen who’ll likely be counted on to be starters next year, it seemed like the 5-0 margin might hold until intermission, but a well-executed, quick sequence of “headmanning” passes changed that.
As the ball came from the Moberly defensive end to midfield, Baxter stepped forward to drive the ball back toward the Lady Spartans end, putting it right at Graves. Graves controlled it with a quick touch, then immediately sent a pass ahead and slightly to her right along the turf to the speedy Reeter, who was trying to accelerate past two Moberly defenders.
Receiving Graves’ feed, Reeter dribbled briefly before realizing she would not be able to get sufficiently ahead of the two players in pursuit. Out-smarting them, the ninth grader braked and, with the outside of her right foot, pulled the ball toward the outside. With both defenders having overrun her, Reeter moved the ball ahead about 5-10 more yards into open space before, from only about 13 yards out, easily pumping a low shot to the far side, a yard or two inside the right goalpost at the 36:25 mark of the opening half.
The play left her one goal short of joining Saunders (three times) and Gillilan as being the only Lady Hornets ever to score at least 20 goals in a season. Saunders has the single-season record with a pair of 26-goals campaigns her junior and senior years.
Chillicothe’s – and Graves’ – last goal of the match dovetailed perfectly with the technically-tasty style of scoring CHS exhibited in the match.
Having scored the first time on the day by getting to the rebound of her own goalmouth shot off a Baxter corner kick and then a second time when she took another Reeter back pass and, with an unexpected burst of speed, racing past a MHS back for a 1-on-1 shot that beat the Lady Spartans goalkeeper from about eight yards away, Graves capitalized on another Baxter beauty from the right corner for her “hat trick” tally.
The right-footed blast from the right corner stayed straight, rather than being curled, putting it on a line about eight yards in front of the visitors’ goal. Graves read it perfectly and, moving slightly toward it, timed a jump perfectly to head the ball sharply and accurately into the net for the seventh and final Chillicothe goal and No. 40 of her stellar career.
The Lady Hornets’ unsurprising domination of Tuesday’s play led to the veterans-laden Chillicothe defense never being forced into making a tough play to keep Moberly at bay. As a result, Kieffer notched career shutout No. 32 without being required to save a shot on net. The CHS goalkeeper handled the ball only about five times all match.
Thursday’s fourth duel with Kirksville’s Lady Tigers this season will pit the Lady Hornets against a foe that did even more scoring than them in the semifinals.
After KHS drew early first blood, third-seeded Cameron knotted the score just over 10 minutes into the contest, which some believed the Lady Dragons might have a decent chance to win.
Kirksville rapidly put the kibosh on that notion, however, answering the Cameron goal with two goals in fairly-quick succession and going on to “ring the ball” five times before intermission. The Lady Tigers tacked on four more goals in the second half, including senior forward Sarah Vorkink completing her own “hat trick” to rout Cameron and earn another crack at Chillicothe.
Also providing goals for KHS were Ana Pultz, Emily Middleton, Gracia Gebhardt, Morgan Baker, Riley Pinkerton, and Faith Rourke.