Two Lady Hornets get state-level kudos

Reeter second-team All-State choice, honorable mention for Italiano after stellar 2021 seasons

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
In a fitting conclusion to her records-shattering 2021 soccer season, Chillicothe High School 2020-21 junior Lucy Reeter – seen taking a shot during a home match against St. Joseph: Lafayette May 11 – has been selected to the Missouri High School Soccer Coaches Association's Class 2 All-State second team. She scored CHS record-highs of 28 goals, 21 assists, and 77 "points" during the season, as well as a match-record six goals at St. Joseph: Benton May 3.
A move-in to the Chillicothe school system just as the 2020-21 school year began, junior Allie Italiano – leaping to stop a shot during May's district-title match at home against Maryville – proved to be a godsend to this past season's Chillicothe High School soccer Lady Hornets, who had projected to be without a top-flight veteran in net, as they'd had for much of the previous decade. Competitive, confident, congenial, and athletic, Italiano not only filled the void, but did so at a level (15-7 record, 12 shutouts) which has earned her Missouri High School Soccer Coaches Association Class 2 All-State honorable mention.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

For a third season in a row (across four years), Chillicothe High School’s soccer Lady Hornets have had two standout players accorded some level of All-State recognition by the Missouri High School Soccer Coaches’ Association.

While the Lady Hornet’ goalkeeper has been given the state nod for a third-straight time, for the first time in program history, a CHS forward has achieved All-State status. And the even-better news? Both have a season of eligibility remaining.

Team-records-smashing junior forward Lucy Reeter follows up her first-team all-Midland Empire Conference with Class 2 second-team All-State laurels after shattering every existing major team scoring mark.

Chosen for All-State honorable mention was classmate Allie Italiano, who posted shutouts in over half (12) of her 22 matches and allowed an average of barely a goal a match.

“ I’m just really proud of them,” CHS head coach Jimmy Chapman commented for the C-T. “Lucy had probably the best season in our schools history and Allie had a very good year. … They both deserved it.”

The coach continued, “It shows the level of work they’ve put into it. Both players were leaders for our team – Lucy as a captain who really leads by example and Allie as being a sort of spark plug for our team’s energy.”

Chapman opined that, while two players have reaped the special individual recognition – and deservedly so, their performances were a by-product of strong team play.

“It’s really a reflection of the whole team we were able to get players on (the All-State list), he shared.

“Allie wouldn’t have been able to without the play of the our defensive (backline) and the eight players who played key roles there throughout the season – center backs Ellie Barnett, Sophia Luetticke and Hannah Dominique and wingbacks Hallie Jones, Chloe Funk, Skyler Powers, Rylee Washburn, and Jaycie Stimpson.

“And Lucy could not have done it without her teammates up front as well. Of her 28 goals, all but five were assisted by her teammates, and her being unselfish, as well, led to her creating chances for her teammates to finish. Forwards Juliann Gabrielson, Allison Ishmael and Delanie Kieffer and midfielders Julia Stimpson and Makayla Vance and Hailee Williams all helped Lucy get this honor.”

Reeter, coming off a team-record 19 goals as a freshman two years ago prior to the COVID-19-canceled 2020 campaign, was expected to be a force at the front end for first-year coach Chapman’s 2021 squad, but probably far surpassed those projections.

On March 22, she began her assault on opponent defenses and goalkeepers – and the Lady Hornets record book – by netting the first CHS goal of the season as the only tally in a 1-0 victory over Kirksville.

Next time out, she more-clearly signaled what was to come when she produced a 3-goals “hat trick” at home against Mid-Buchanan.

On April 16, she reached double digits in goals with one in a win over Mexico in the first round of the Lady Spartan Invitational Tournament at Moberly.

The next day, Reeter was halfway to 20 already, shredding the host team for a match-record-tying five in a 6-0 win.

Sharing the match mark with Rochelle “Rock” Gillilan did not last long, however.

Just over two weeks later, on May 3, she scored all four CHS first-half goals at St. Joseph: Benton, then found the net again in the 56th and 70th minutes to set a new record of six goals in a single outing.

That day’s explosion raised her season total to 23. With five more regular-season matches ahead plus the district tournament, it seemed obvious only an injury or similar issue would prevent Reeter from surpassing program legend Lindy Saunders’ season record of 26.

The milestone was tied four matches later and surpassed when Reeter rang up the only Chillicothe goal in the regular-season finale at Maryville.

She added No. 28 in the opening round of the district tournament before, while having chances, being blanked in the 1-0 semifinals overtime win and in the title-match loss to Maryville.

In two or three matches during the season, the speedy, spunky junior had multiple excellent scoring opportunities which either were stopped by outstanding saves by the opposing netminder or slipped just wide or high of the target.

While undeniably being an excellent finisher (goal-scorer), as her 47 career goals – third-most in team history despite playing only two seasons to date – vouch, Reeter demonstrated her touch, awareness, and selflessness  by also setting new Lady Hornets’ match and season records for assists.

She set up teammates for half of the eight Chillicothe goals in the victory over Mexico on her way to earning 21 “helpers” for the season. Saunders also possessed that mark previously, having a dozen “dimes” in her 2015 senior campaign that saw her match her junior-year total of 26 goals.

With, under traditional soccer individual-scoring protocols which value goals as worth two offensive points and assists as one, Reeter’s 2021 output obliterated Saunders’ prior 2015 record of 64 by accumulating 77 points this spring.

Even if healthy, barring an insane senior season, Reeter will complete her CHS career not owning only a solitary team offensive record – most career goals. With the benefit of four full seasons of play, Saunders racked up 89 markers, 42 more than Reeter currently has in her truncated career.

While it seems highly-unlikely the current star can even approach that mark, the fact that a high percentage of the 2021 starting lineup was comprised of other underclasswomen could let one envision a more-aggressive, even-more effective and diversified attack which racks up big goals totals in 2022.

That depth and enhanced skill and experience could prevent opponents from single-mindedly concentrating on trying to stop Reeter. In such a scenario, considering the number of missed chances she had this season, a 35- to 40-goals season does not seem totally far-fetched, even if not likely.

While Reeter was viewed prior to the season as a major foundational piece, who would fill the figuratively-gigantic shoes of 2-times All-State second-team goalkeeper Kennedie Kieffer was a huge question mark as the 2020-21 school year began.

With no 2020 campaign to groom a youngster for the job and limited summer training allowed, due to the pandemic, the netminder’s position threatened to be a gaping void.

Then an early 2000s CHS graduate chose to move back home, bringing with her a junior-to-be who just happened to be everything the doctor – and coach – could have ordered.

With a strong combination of size, athleticism, “feel,” and competitiveness, Italiano immediately jumped to the head of the line of goalkeeping possibilities as preseason practices began.

Although she had to sit out the team’s opening match of the season while the Missouri State High School Activities Association gave official approval of her eligibility for the season (due to her having enrolled just after the school year started), she proved to be everything former goalkeeper Chapman anticipated.

Her first two starts produced shutout victories – the first a 1-0 nailbiter against a traditionally-salty Kirksville team and the next a saveless verdict over the brand-new Mid-Buchanan team which turned out to be a very solid squad.

The first “acid test” came the next time out – at Kansas City against eventual conference champion and traditional regional power St. Pius X.

With less than a handful of CHS starters owning first-stringer experience aside from the three preceding outings, St. Pius X’s Lady Warriors dominated field position, playing much of the match on the Chillicothe end of the pitch.

However, with a combination of solid defensive positioning that erected a shell around the Lady Hornets’ “18” (penalty area), many of the SPX shot attempts came from 20 yards or further out. That allowed Italiano to “strut her stuff” in front of the net, repelling or reeling in shot after SPX shot.

When the referee’s final series of three tweets on his whistle indicated the end of 80 minutes of play, only one Lady Warriors drive – a shot by all-MEC first-teamer Bri Witthar – had found its way into the net, while a whopping 23 had been stopped by Italiano.

That proved to be the first of three occasions during the season when the Chillicothe junior exceeded 20 saves in a match. She turned back 21 in a 6-0 loss to Columbia: Father Tolton Regional during the Moberly tournament and then made a season-high – and potentially CHS-record – 25 stops in the 6-1 regular-season-closing loss at Maryville.

Although Maryville also won a rematch about a week later in the district title match, Italiano not only made 17 more saves, but her showing at Maryville had convinced the Lady Spoofhounds they’d need to be precise with their shots if they wanted to beat Chillicothe again. As a result of feeling the need to try to “pick the corners” of the CHS goal, Maryville had several shots go off the goalposts or crossbar, as well as others go just wide of the net in its eventual 2-1 comeback triumph.

Not only was Italiano active in stopping opponents’ shots – she allowed only 23 goals in the 22 matches in which she played, while being credited with 180 saves, according to team statistics shared by Chapman, but her strong right leg on “punts” routinely sent the ball nearly to or beyond midfield, helping relieve defensive pressure and initiate an immediate possible counterattack.

Her attitude – both intense and almost-carefree in turn – also helped soothe teammates nerves and loosen them up in stressful moments, as well as entertain them in calmer times.

Putting a final treat atop the whipped cream of her sweet season, Italiano also delivered a “first” for the Chillicothe goalkeeper – female or male – as the Lady Hornets battled Kirksville in a rematch on the KHS turf May 10.

With the Lady Hornets about to have their early-season 1-0 home win reversed by the Lady Tigers, an offensive push deep into the Kirksville defensive end of John Spainhower Field resulted in the ball crossing the end line off a Lady Tiger. That meant a corner kick for Chillicothe as the clock ticked into the final minute of regulation time.

Already having edged up the field some from in front of her own goal, due to her teammates’ rush toward the KHS end, Italiano responded immediately to Chapman’s instruction to add to the crowd of Chillicothe players gathering near the front of the Kirksville goal while Reeter hurried to set up the ball in the corner.

Rushing 60-80 yards ahead, Italiano found a spot where she could “read” Reeter’s arcing kick toward the goalfront area.

With the same tracking skill she’d used so often to stop opponents’ shots, the CHS goalkeeper gauged perfectly where the ball’s descent would have it at around 8-10 feet in the air and dashed there. Using the substantial vertical leap she’d exhibited to make high-reaching saves on multiple occasions, Italiano leaped and headed the ball into the Kirksville goal, tying the match in the final minute. Fifteen minutes into the ensuing overtime, Gabrielson scored the match-winner for a 2-1 verdict.

Italiano’s rare goal is believed to be the only time in Chillicothe High soccer history – either girls’ or boys’ – that the person currently occupying the goalkeeper’s position had scored. There was at least one prior occasion when, after being shifted from goalie to an upfield position, a CHS player had scored a goal in a match they began in net.

Given the skill she showed on that occasion at Kirksville, Italiano might well have instilled in her coach the notion to utilize her at a field position on occasion next year – perhaps in matches the Lady Hornets lad comfortably – while allowing her potential 2023 replacement to gain experience in goal.

Beyond the abstract, though highly-notable, distinction of being chosen for state-level recognition, Chapman notes, there can be very practical, tangible value to it, as well.

“This can help both players get noticed by colleges,” he points out. “Neither has decided yet if she would like to continue to the next level, but both have shown interest and so it pushes them to be even better next year.

“Both are extremely driven and want to be the best.”

The state kudos for Reeter and Italiano follow Kieffer (second team) and back Devin Dowell (HM) being so honored in 2019 and the inclusion of Kieffer (second team) and back Sydney Baxter (HM) on the 2018 MHSSCA All-State list as Chilicothe’s first such choices. CHS’ program dates to spring 2007.

“It’s an honor that a team that didn’t make the state playoffs would get two players selected,” Chapman observes, suggesting the regard in which coaches hold the Lady Hornets program. Although neither the 2018 nor 2021 clubs won a district title after reaching the finals, their 15-wins campaigns – sharing with the 2019 district champs the program zenith for wins in a season – and play in the very strong Midland Empire Conference drew wide admiration.

The honors bestowed on CHS players then has a positive residual impact, the CHS graduate and former Hornets player believes.

Having players gain statewide attention affects the program just by getting it out there that our team is good enough to get players recognized, and that everyone has that chance (to do so), if they give it a shot!” he tells the C-T.

“We’ve had 3-straight years of having two players selected (All-State), so it is something players can strive for.

“Maybe that will lead to more players working harder (at a younger age) and getting better quicker, which could help our teams in the future.”