Freshman Alex Thiessen stepped to the line, 10 yards from the Harrisonville net, knowing that if he slipped the ball past goalkeeper Ben Spencer, his Eagles would have a 3-2 shootout lead and a chance to make history.
“I wasn't even nervous,” Thiessen said as a teammate bowed in front of him in a “We're not worthy” stoop. “I knew if I made a goal, we should win, because we weren't going to miss. Having that type of confidence – and knowing what order we were going to shoot before the shootout even took place – gave us all a lot of security.”
Thiessen drilled the ball past Spencer, as did fellow freshman Cooper Childers and sophomore Andrew Schmitt, and the Eagles had five shootout goals and a 3-2 victory – the first in school history against Harrisonville.
But what made the night even more historic is that it was the first Missouri River Valley Conference loss for Harrisonville in its history.
Goals by junior Michael Pellham and senior Jake Desselle set the stage for the kiddie corps to join them in the magic moment.
“Coach has us kick shootout goals after every practice,” explained Desselle. “We know what order we're going to shoot, and we know right where we're going to shoot. David Mullen, our goalkeeper, knows where we're going to shoot, but an opposing goalie doesn't so we just keep shooting in the game place.
“When Michael started with the goal, I knew we were going to hit all five. When their kid missed the third shot, I knew we were going to win. We all did.”
Childers oozed confidence as he added, “It's only 10 yards. It's not hard, and we didn't think we were under any extra pressure. We couldn't wait to kick our goals. We knew we had it.”
Did first-year coach Tyler Nichol share that confidence?
“Yeah, when they missed, I pretty much felt like we were going to win,” said Nichol, whose Eagles are 13-3 overall and 7-1 in conference action. “We made our first two shots with Michael and Jake, and then we sent up two freshmen and a sophomore.
“Yeah, you're probably thinking, 'Two freshman and a sophomore?' But let me tell you about those freshmen and that sophomore. They don't play like underclassmen. We have all the confidence in the world in those kids. Alex was so calm and got the goal to give us the lead, and we knew that Cooper and Andrew were going to follow with goals.
“Andrew has ice water flowing through his veins. That's why Coach (Jared) Smith and I have him shoot last. It was over before he even shot.”
Seconds after the game-winning goal, the Eagles mobbed Schmitt at midfield.
“When they missed and Alex hit our third goal, I knew it was over,” Schmitt said. “We got more confident as we went along. You could see how confident all of us were when we went out to shoot. We practice this every day – every day! And all that paid off big time. You can credit Coach Nichol and Coach Smith for that confidence we had today.”
While the youngsters and the senior took care of business in the shootout, Pellham and senior Jacob Weingartner made sure the game reached that stage by scoring goals in the first half to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead.
“We wish we could have just won in regulation,” Pellham said, “but this was more exciting.”
Harrisonville knotted the score at 2-all midway through the second period, but Mullen and the Eagles defense buckled down and kept the Wildcats from earning yet another conference win.
For a moment, with just seven seconds left in the first overtime period, Harrisonville's Zion Hartzler scored what appeared to be the game-winning goal, but it was disallowed because of an offside penalty.
“I knew our guys would make all our shots in the shootout, and when their guy kicked the ball over the net, I felt like we were going to win,” said Mullen, who made 12 saves on the night. “I had faith in our guys all night.
“I just wish I could tell you how I feel. I've never felt this way in a game. It's just so special to finally beat them.”
It was also special for Mullen because his mother Angela, a breast cancer survivor, was the loudest fan in the stands.
“You always know where my mom's sitting,” a grinning Mullen said. “I'm so happy she – and all our fans – were here to see this one.”