Lady Hornets post seventh-shutout win in a row, blanking Kirksville for a fourth time this season, 2-0 at Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II home. Will meet Maryville in Class 2 state opener Saturday (May 18) at 6 p.m. at Litton Stadium
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — One of the facets a sports coach anticipates and values when he or she guides a team full of experienced veterans is the steadiness – getting a consistent performance adhering to the team’s strengths and game plan most times they enter competition.
Chillicothe High School soccer Lady Hornets second-year head coach Shannon Grable surely is feeling most fortunate in that regard these.
On Thursday (May 16), his 2019 squad posted its seventh shutout triumph in a row as it claimed the 13th-year program’s second-ever Missouri district title and state-tournament berth with an efficiently-dominant 2-0 triumph over Kirksville in the Class 2 District 15 match at Chillicothe’s Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II.
The Lady Hornets (17-4) will stay put and host District 16 champion Maryville (12-7) in the opening match of the state tournament Saturday at 6 p.m.
Chillicothe will be in pursuit of its first state-tournament win ever, having dropped its first-round match in the 2015 state tourney. It owns a recent 1-0 victory over Maryville on the road in the teams’ only regular-season meeting in 2019. Maryville took the District 16 title this past Wednesday with a thrilling 5-4 overtime victory over Savannah, a match SHS forced into overtime with a tying goal in the final 20 seconds of regular time.
The Lady Hornets, who have not allowed a goal while racking up seven “Ws” in a row since an unexpected 1-0 loss at St. Joseph: Benton April 29, did not have any such dramatics in their championship match Thursday.
Controlling play on the Bob Fairchild Field artificial-turf pitch throughout, they used a familiar recent tactic – striking for multiple goals in a short span – to take scoreboard control just past the mid-point of the opening half and never had their command challenged thereafter.
Four dangerous Chillicothe attacks between the 10th and 25th minutes didn’t bear fruit, but one could sense the Lady Hornets were getting closer and closer to breaking the scoring ice. When it finally occurred just into the 26th minute, a very surprising source did the finishing honors.
As CHS pressured deep in the Kirksville (south) end of the field late in the 25th minute, a Lady Tigers defender inside her team’s penalty area tried to clear the ball out of danger over the west (offensive right) sideline, but did not quite get enough length on her attempt.
Lurking there on the right outside was Chillicothe’s top goals scorer of the season, freshman Lucy Reeter, who quickly controlled the ball and, with her right foot, drove a crossing pass into the area about 5-8 yards in front of the Kirksville goal.
There, netminder Emily Middleton moved out from her goal line to make a jumping grab of it before any Lady Hornet might have a chance to play the pass. However, one of the other Lady Tigers, not realizing her goalkeeper’s approach, was moving back toward the goal to intersect the ball’s descending arc, presumably hoping to head the ball away. Both KHS players arrived at the ball at the same time, the contact between them preventing Middleton from catching the ball.
Instead, it squirted away toward the net where CHS freshman Ellie Barnett, who had not scored in relatively-limited varsity playing time during the regular season, dashed forward to tap it home at 25:03. Likely inserted for a spell to give other forwards some additional rest on the unusually-warm late-spring evening, Barnett’s first-ever varsity goal put Chillicothe in front and eventually stood as the game-winning goal.
The Lady Hornets didn’t let their advantage rest at a single goal long.
A couple of minutes later, as they worked the ball back onto the offensive half of the pitch, senior forward/midfielder Sarah Graves was unnecessarily fouled by a KHS player while moving laterally on the dribble some 45 yards from the Lady Tigers’ goal.
The infraction gave CHS a direct free kick, allowing it to deploy Graves and other forwards and midfielders farther upfield before senior inside back Sydney Baxter stepped into the free kick back at the point of the foul.
When Baxter’s right-footed drive sailed high and far, carrying about five yards deep into the Kirksville “18” (penalty area), a third Lady Hornets freshman showed why – despite this year’s squad depending heavily on 10 seniors – the CHS booters’ future could still be quite bright.
Reacting to and accurately reading the flight of Baxter’s drive, MaKayla Vance out-flanked a defender and moved into the ball’s path about 12 yards from the KHS goal. Letting the ball hit her in the lower legs or feet, Vance couldn’t keep it close enough to play again quickly herself, but did succeed in redirecting it more toward the middle of the pitch and into the approaching Graves’ path.
Getting to the rolling ball first only eight yards from the goal line and with the goalkeeper unable to cut down the angle, Graves hooked a ground-ball shot with her right foot that rolled into the (defensive) right corner of the net. Only 2:27 after Barnett had broken the scoring ice, Graves’ 18th goal of the season and 41st of her career – tied for third most in team annals with Karson Keithley – made it 2-0, Lady Hornets.
The sense at that time was that might mean “match over” and, as it turned out, it was. Chillicothe continued to keep the play mostly on the Kirksville side of the pitch over the remaining 50-plus minutes, with only a KHS direct free kick by top threat Sarah Vorkink from 20 yards in the 59th minute being a high-quality scoring chance. She got her shot over the 3-person defensive “wall” in front of her, but, to do so, the shot did not have room to sink enough to force a save. Instead, it sailed a foot over the crossbar, out of play.
With CHS senior goalkeeper Kennedie Kieffer having to make only a couple of very routine, easy saves all match behind the razor-wire all-senior defensive backline of Kaylee Lewis, Elli Ross, Devin Dowell, and Baxter and defensive midfielder Addie Ficken, the tweet of the referee’s game-ending whistle meant the Lady Hornets had extended their stretch of consecutive scoreless minutes of defending to a scintillating 579.
Thursday’s assists earned by Reeter and Vance were their seventh and third of 2019, respectively.
Given the extreme individual and team successes this season’s soccer Lady Hornets have earned, the district-title match also produced multiple team or individual record-extending performances and career milestones, like Graves’ climbing one more rung up the career goals ladder and Barnett’s first varsity goal.
The shutout was both the team’s and Kieffer’s 16th of the year and the ’keeper’s 33rd of her career, all ongoing CHS records. The win also extended the new single-season mark, which previously was 15 a year ago.