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CHS Soccer Hornets Head to Postseason Off Consecutive Wins

Preview district-tourney opener with shutout win at St. Joseph: Lafayette Wednesday; CHS volleyball season ended Monday with 5-games loss to host Cameron in district tournament

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Despite having missed the previous couple of matches with an injury, Chillicothe (Mo.) HS junior goalkeeper Jaxon Albertson slides out to prevent a husky St. Joseph: Benton Cardinal from having a chance to get a shot on goal from inside 10 yards late in the first half of CHS' 5-3 home victory Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2020.

In the aftermath of another Chillicothe High School 2020 fall sport’s season ending Monday, CHS’ soccer Hornets geared up for their postseason with back-to-back wins this week.

Following the volleyball Lady Hornets’ 25-18, 27-25, 17-25, 15-25, 7-15 defeat by Class 3 District 16 Tournament host Cameron Monday, the Chillicothe booters avenged a recent loss at St. Joseph: Benton with a 5-3 home triumph Tuesday and then previewed their Class 2 District 8 Tournament opener against St. Joseph: Lafayette on Monday (Nov. 2) with a 4-0 shutout of the Fighting Irish at St. Joseph this past Wednesday.

SOCCER

ST. JOSEPH — Closing their regular season with a make-up of a Midland Empire Conference match postponed from Sept. 8, when Lafayette had too many team members under COVID-19 quarantine, the CHS booters (10-7) sent themselves into district action this coming week on a 2-matches winning streak and with victories in three of its last four outings.

Chillicothe’s boys’ soccer squad will begin defense of its district championship on Monday with a 5 p.m. match at Savannah against the very same opponent – Lafayette – in a quarterfinals clash between the Nos. 4 (CHS) and 5 seeds. The winner will go on to face top seed St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Wednesday’s whitewash was the Hornets’ second decision over Lafayette this fall. They won 2-1 at Chillicothe Oct. 13.

This time, the CHS margin of victory was much more clear-cut, although that didn’t come to pass until early in the second half.

Senior reserve forward Caleb Vance’s fourth goal of the season, off a Mason Baxter setup, was the only first-half scoring in the match. It came in the 24th minute, Chillicothe head coach Tim Cunningham reported.

The visitors then opened daylight in the darkening early-evening skies inside the first 10 minutes of the second half.

A corner kick by junior Ben Cueni-Smith was sent into the Fighting Irish goal by junior midfielder Chace Corbin in the sixth minute of the last half. About three minutes later, Ch. Corbin connected again, this time off Baxter’s 16th assist of the season, increasing the Hornets’ margin to 3-0.

They mostly coasted from there, finally adding on in the last minute of play when sophomore Jackson Reeter found the range off a pass from senior midfielder Caleb Corbin. J. Reeter’s first varsity goal came on the elder Corbin’s first 2020 assist.

At the defensive end of the pitch, the Hornets largely kept Lafayette well away from the goal. Junior goalkeeper Jaxon Albertson was required to make only two saves in notching his and CHS’ fifth shutout of the season.Statistically, Ch. Corbin's two tallies Wednesday boosted his season's total to 11, only one behind forward and classmate Drake Cosgrove for the team lead.

With his two helpers swelling his season total to 16, Baxter – last year’s top CHS goal scorer with 26 (second-most in a season in team history) and third on CHS’ career goals list with 49 – moved within two assists of the program’s single-season record, set by Derek Hussey during his 2014 senior season.

Wednesday's triumph left the 2019 league co-champion Hornets with a final MEC mark of 3-4.

On Tuesday, the CHS booters had assured themselves of a winning season, building an early 2-0 lead, then responded emphatically when it disappeared less than three minutes into the second half of their home match with St. Joseph: Benton and prevailing, 5-3.

The victory on their home Bob Fairchild Field pitch at Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II saw the five CHS goals come from five separate sources.

Hosting a squad which had defeated them 3-1 in the Midland Empire Conference match at St. Joseph 12 days before, the Hornets pumped in three goals in 11:20 after Benton had leveled the score at 2-2 2:05 into the second half.

The one which gave Chillicothe the lead for good belonged to Ch. Corbin and came 4:40 after Benton had squared things with  a sharp-angle shot.

A foul on BHS near midfield gave CHS a direct free kick opportunity a distant 56 yards from the Benton goal.

Senior sweeper back Dalton Ripley’s long, soaring kick sailed directly into the middle of the BHS “18” (penalty area) and eventually found its way to Vance about eight yards from the goal.

With the BHS goalkeeper between himself and the net and the ball in mid-air around chest high, rather than let the ball descend to nearer foot level, Vance smartly and adroitly jumped and bumped the ball with his knee, popping it over the ’keeper and slowly toward the vacant net. There, only a couple of yards from the goal, as multiple players converged on it, a sliding Ch. Corbin rolled it over the goal line for a 3-2 Hornets lead at 46:45 of the match.

That tally turned into a trendsetter.

A couple of minutes later, Drake Cosgrove delivered a corner kick from the offensive right side into the goalmouth area. Once more, the Hornets created enough havoc to prevent the BHS goalkeeper from catching it or defenders from clearing it away.

In the melee, Baxter got a foot on it and rolled it into the path of sophomore back Wyatt Brandsgaard, who had been brought deep into the offensive third of the field because of his approximately 6’2” stature. From five yards away, Brandsgaard chipped home his first goal of the season, restoring Chillicothe’s original 2-goals lead at 49:08.

Wary of the proven fragility of a 2-goals lead, the Hornets continued to apply steady pressure on the Cardinals’ defense and, within 10 minutes, it cracked once more.

With the ball around 40 yards from the BHS goal, Cosgrove chipped an elevated ball toward the Benton “18. As it came down, a Benton back under pressure misplayed it, letting it get behind him. Hornets sophomore Sam Reeter got to it before the Cardinals’ ’keeper could and directed home his third goal of the season at 58:05.

While Benton ultimately did score again, it wasn’t until the final 65 seconds as Chillicothe handily secured its win.

The Hornets had taken a 2-0 lead in the match’s opening 20 minutes.

About nine minutes into the match, Baxter’s wide run from the right side gave him room to cross the ball to Cosgrove, who fired it home for his team-best 12th goal of the season.

Just over nine minutes later, thievery by Cosgrove led to Baxter doubling the Hornets’ lead.

Cosgrove stole the ball off the foot of a Benton back just outside the BHS penalty area and angled toward the goal from the offensive left side. As he got within about 12 yards of the goal, he tried to shoot, but, as he did, the defender he’d taken the ball from bumped his hip, sending the ball off-line and Cosgrove tumbling to the ersatz grass. The nearby referee’s whistle immediately trilled, calling the foul which meant a penalty shot for CHS.

Hornets head coach Tim Cunningham instantly dispatched instructions for Baxter, the CHS program’s third-all-time leading goal scorer, to take the uncontested shot from 12 yards. When he did, his open-footed drive with his right foot scooted cleanly past the Benton goalkeeper into the lower left corner of the net, making it a 2-0 CHS lead after 18:43.

The goal, Baxter’s seventh this season, moved his career total to 49, two shy of second-place Jon Kline and six away from Steven Cooper’s team record.

Barely two minutes later, however, Chillicothe missed a chance to clear the ball out of its penalty area to Albertson’s left and, off a scramble just outside the goal line, Benton nudged the ball home.

Although Chillicothe preserved its single-goal lead the final 19-plus minutes of the first half, the visitors got the equalizer not long after play resumed following intermission, only to draw the decisive response from the home team.

VOLLEYBALL

CAMERON — Needing one more match win to assure themselves of a better final winning percentage than their two immediate predecessors, the 2020 Chillicothe High volleyball Lady Hornets put themselves right on the threshold of accomplishing that Monday.

However, in the end, that modest, but positive, achievement “responded” like the protagonist in the old, twice-a-hit R&B song – “I hear you knockin’, but you cain’t come in.”

Facing Class 3 District 16 Tournament host Cameron – to whom they’d lost in straight games in undistinguished fashion the previous Wednesday – in the only quarterfinals match of the 5-teams tourney, the Lady Hornets started well.

They surprised the Lady Dragons by seven points in the first game, then seized the second in “overtime.” In 2019, that would have sent them on to the semifinals against top seed Maryville via a 2-0 triumph in the best-of-3-games format long utilized in Missouri high school volleyball. However, in 2020, with the Missouri State High School Activities Association having switched over to best-of-5 competition for its postseason play, Chillicothe still stood one game win away from victory, albeit with three chances to gain it and the odds in their favor.

However, Chillicothe didn’t sustain its level of play and Cameron elevated its as the favored hosts built ever-increasing momentum and confidence, coming all the way back to win the match.

The final score in what turned into the Lady Hornets’ season-concluding defeat was 25-18, 27-25, 17-25, 15-25, 7-15.

With the closing setback, Chillicothe’s ’20 campaign, which saw only two seniors on the active roster at year’s end, wrapped up with a 7-11 record in matches in head coach Bob Long’s first year at the helm. That .389 winning rate falls just short of the .395 rate when former coach Karen Jackson’s last two years produced identical 9-14-1 marks.

After standing 3-2 early in the season, the 4-9 record the rest of the way meant a final wins total which equaled the program’s lowest since the 4-21-1 mark of 1999. Chillicothe spikers have finished with a losing record each of the past four years and have been on the high side of .500 at season’s end only twice in the past 10 years.

In Monday’s match against Cameron, Chillicothe’s two 12th graders were leaders in two statistical categories, Long noted. Ella Leamer was tops in floor-defense “digs” with nine and Maya Snyder earned 16 assists.

“The seniors played amazing in their final outing,” the coach lauded.

Statistically, Chillicothe’s net offense was paced by juniors Essie Hicks and Gracie West with 11 and 10 “kills” (spikes), respectively, while sophomore Jessica Reeter dished out 14 assists. Sophomore Anna Fisher and freshman Delanie Kieffer each served seven winning points to lead the Lady Hornets and Kieffer added eight “digs” and six “kills.” West provided six blocks in net defense.