The Grain Valley High School boys soccer team experienced another first Tuesday night.
The Eagles downed longtime small-class power St. Paul Lutheran of Concordia 2-1 behind another brilliant defensive effort by goalkeeper David Mullen and the Eagles defense.
“We feel like if we score one or two goals, with our defense and David in the net, we have a good chance of winning,” said Jacob Weingartner, who gave Grain Valley a 1-0 lead 20 minutes into the first half off an assist from Blake Desselle.
“This has been such an amazing year. It seems like after each game we play, our coach talks about another first for the Grain Valley soccer program. I'm so proud to be a part of this team – everyone is proud to be a part of this team. It just shows, every time we play.”
It was the first time the 7-1 Eagles had ever defeated the Saints.
Seven minutes after Weingartner's goal, Jake Desselle scored what turned out to be the game-winner as Alex Thiessen fed the senior forward a perfect pass that he was able to put into the back of the net.
“All the goals are big goals because our defense is so good, and David does such a good job,” Desselle said. “Even when they scored, we felt like we were going to win.”
So did Mullen, who has recorded four shutouts this season. His lone loss came on an overtime penalty kick in a 1-0 loss to Sedalia Smith-Cotton.
“Our defense is great,” said Mullen, who recorded seven saves. “The guys on defense have confidence in me and I have a lot of confidence in them.”
The Saints made the game interesting by scoring their lone goal in the 65th minute, but the Eagle defense clamped down and Mullen did not face another shot on goal.
When asked to compare the first 65 minutes of the game, when he had a 2-0 lead, to the final 15 minutes of the nail-biter, Mullen said, “You keep playing the same way. The defense really picked it up. We always play hard and never take a play off. It's so much fun to have this type of success. The guys score enough points and the defense shuts down the other team – that's a good way to win games.”
First-year Grain Valley coach Tyler Nichol, a 2007 graduate of Blue Springs High School, said he wouldn't trade this year's defense for anything.
“Our defense is pretty stinking good,” Nichol said. “I wouldn't trade our defense for a big-time forward. You win with the type of defense our guys are playing this season.”
The win was the sixth in a row for the Eagles.
“They're growing more confident with each victory,” Nichol said, “but they're also growing more confident with each period of play, each practice – day to day. You just see the confidence growing.”