Pair of second-half defensive mishandles lead to only goals of 2-0 Maryville Class 2 state tournament first-round victory over Lady Hornets Saturday (May 18)
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — What shaped up as the best chance yet for a 2019 Chillicothe (Mo.) HS girls’ soccer team to taste the sweet nectar of state tournament success fade into oblivion early Saturday afternoon (May 18) , still unfulfilled.
Hosting the Maryville Lady Spoofhounds at Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II to begin their second-ever appearance in state play, the Lady Hornets – owners of a program-record 16 shutout victories this spring – found themselves on the receiving end of the whitewashing, falling 2-0 to a foe they had defeated 1-0 on Maryville’s field eight days earlier.
A couple of second-half balls mishandled within their defensive third of the pitch – one inside the penalty area – led to MHS star striker Morgan Pettlon popping in both goals – the match-winner at the 57:08 mark of the 80-minutes match and the clincher at 66:49.
The defeat, after seven CHS triumphs – all by shutout – in succession, terminated the Lady Hornets’ records-smashing campaign with a final won-lost mark of 17-5.
In Chillicothe’s only prior state-tourney appearance since its program’s inception in 2007, the Lady Hornets also lost at home in the opening round in 2015.
Saturday’s match – shifted forward to a noon start from the originally-plotted 6 p.m. kickoff, due to the threat (which was realized) of afternoon and evening rain and thunderstorms in the area – was played with a strong south wind sweeping from one end of the pitch to the other affecting action, but not impacting either goal.
After playing the opening half into the wind offensively and spending most of its time trying to thwart the Maryville pass-focused, ball-control attack, when Chillicothe successfully reached intermission still 0-0, the host’s hope was that getting the wind behind it for the second half would allow it to limber up its offense.
While the Lady Hornets did make several deep pushes into the MHS end, they never managed a clean, hard shot on net from anything approaching short range.
Finally, as regulation time entered its last 15 minutes with the match still scoreless, a long Chillicothe free kick was easily handled on a bounce by the MHS goalkeeper and her punt the ball back toward midfield.
Moments later, Maryville maneuvered the ball up the right side far into the Chillicothe defensive end, but it seemed like the Lady Hornets – its normal back line group shuffled a bit to accommodate for the absence of veteran, skilled senior left inside back Devin Dowell – had the MHS crossing attempt under control.
However, a first attempt to handle the ball inside the CHS “18” and clear it upfield fizzled. Then, when the ball came to another “backchecking” Lady Hornet in the middle of the pitch and around the top edge of the penalty area, Chillicothe had another clean opportunity to get the ball out of the high-danger area with either a well-connected pass and clearing kick or directly with a boot of the ball toward the sideline or beyond.
That second chance went awry, too, however, as the retreating player’s feed to a teammate closer to her own goal line resulted in a hurried, harried miskick that softly sent the ball back to the top portion of the Chillicothe penalty area and in the middle.
There, grateful to accept the misfire, was the ever-dangerous MHS striker Morgan Pettlon, who had nearly capitalized on a failed Chillicothe clearing attempt in the first five minutes of the second half, only to clang a left-footed shot from 12 yards out on the offensive right side off the left goalpost.
With the Lady Hornets scrambling back to their right, Pettlon had time and room to try to shoot the ball either to her left or right and chose to go “against the grain,” driving it back to her right from just inside the Chillicothe “18.” Although well wide of Chillicothe star goalkeeper Kennedie Kieffer’s dive to her left, once more the MHS ace’s shot met the metal of the left post. This time, though, there would be no reprieve for the home team as the contact came on the inner edge of the curved frame support, leaving the carom to careen the ball back toward and into the goal at the 57:08 mark.
While a hefty chunk of match time remained, the unassisted tally ratcheted up the tension level for Chillicothe, since it had not been generating much in the way of offensive pressure.
About nine minutes later, as Chillicothe tried to apply more pressure, another MHS counterattack – this time following a CHS right-corner kick – resulted in another Lady Hornets defensive flub, another Grade-A scoring chance from short range on the right side for Pettlon, and a crushing insurance goal for Maryville.
As the 66th minute ticked away, a Maryville outside midfielder attempted to dribble the ball toward the Chillicothe goal still some 40-plus yards away. A Lady Hornet touched the ball away toward the middle, right to a teammate. However, that CHS player, instead of controlling the ball with a touch or directing back toward midfield into open space, panicked a bit and tried to chip the ball back and toward the sideline to a teammate, only to put far too much speed and height on the kick.
With the would-be recipient, facing midfield in hopes of playing the pass, stuck going the wrong way, the ball sailed beyond her into unguarded space where Pettlon, by happenstance, had an easy time getting to it first.
Pettlon moved in from much the same angle she had early in the half when her hard shot to Kennedie Kieffer’s left dented the post, but this time, with no one between them, she had a boatload of time to consider her options.
With Kieffer only edging out from her goal line slowly to protect against the Lady ’Hound possibly sending a crossing pass to the weak side, Pettlon tapped the ball softly ahead of her several times, reading Kieffer’s positioning. Once it became virtually certain the MHS player planned to shoot, the CHS goalkeeper charged.
Reacting as Kieffer’s approach cut down her angle to see open net, Pettlon timed things perfectly, nimbly touching the ball with the inside of her left foot just before the lunging goalkeeper’s slide on her left side got her body to the artificial turf.
The ball eased under Kieffer just before she landed, squeezing only a yard or two inside the left goalpost behind her to give Maryville effectively an insurmountable 2-goals lead at 66:49.
With the visitors content to play “keepaway” with series of short passes to each other much of the remaining 13:11, Chillicothe could not sustain possession long enough to create any dangerous scoring opportunities that might re-inject some drama. CHS’ only shot on goal in the remaining time proved to be a direct free kick from a distant 41 yards out that was routinely handled by the Maryville ’keeper.