Grain Valley boys soccer coach Tyler Nichol gave his team a variety of the “it wasn’t pretty but it got the job done” talk following Tuesday’s nonconference win at Van Horn.
Actually, it was only about the last 20 minutes that got hairy for Nichol’s Eagles before they survived for a 2-1 win. Van Horn coach Greg Millick just wished his team hadn’t waited so long to make its big push.
Grain Valley claimed a 2-0 lead barely 10 minutes in and kept Van Horn at bay until midway through the second half on its way to improving 15-3. The host Falcons (9-11-1) sliced the deficit on Michael Payne’s goal in the 61st minute and continued to press the Eagles defense but couldn’t find an equalizer.
“The first half today, we controlled play through the midfield, which was the game plan,” Nichol said. “(The Falcons) battled and battled, even when they were down two, and they got the one goal and had a chance for another. They were a good side, for sure.”
The Eagles first goal came just a 1:27 in, as Jacob Weingartner broke free in the left wing and unleashed a left-footer past Van Horn goalkeeper Blair Fink that found the high opposite corner.
“Jake (Desselle) gave me a good ball,” Weingartner said. “The defender missed the ball and it came straight to me. I saw the defender go to the left, so I decided to go right and I had an open shot.”
In the 10th minute, the Falcons couldn’t clear a ball out of the 18-yard box and Desselle put it away with a twisting shot for the two-goal advantage.
“The second one was huge for us,” said Nichol, who received his first career yellow card for protesting a foul call late in the second half. “Sometimes when we’ve scored early this year, we almost relax too early and then give up the tying goal.
“We were confident tonight. We moved some guys around tonight to see what we have for districts.”
Van Horn finally broke through when Avi Lopez got a through-pass to Michael Payne on the left wing and Payne beat Grain Valley goalkeeper David Mullen to the ball and punched in a 15-yarder to make it 2-1.
Payne nearly gave the Falcons a golden equalizer chance in the 32nd. He juked past his man in the left corner and dribbled into the box, where he got tangled with a couple Eagle defenders and went down before Grain Valley cleared the ball. No foul (with a subsequent penalty kick) was called, and Millick’s protest earned him a yellow card.
A few minutes later, Eduardo Ibarra corralled the Falcons’ free kick into the box, but his turnaround shot zipped wide.
Van Horn’s comeback effort was hampered the final minutes after Avi Lopez drew a red-card ejection for foul language, which Millick claimed was a directed at a teammate.
Despite the misfortunes, Millick acknowledged his team needed to make its push earlier and didn’t tighten its defense until after Grain Valley’s goals.
“Once we score goals, it’s like the light switch turns on,” Millick said. “I wish it didn’t take a goal for that to happen. You would like to think high ball pressure and talking could do it, but that’s just not the team we have.
“That team’s fantastic,” he said of Grain Valley. “Goalkeeper to forward, each player was solid, as well as each reserve they brought in. Those two goals were stingers; they were perfectly struck.”
Grain Valley’s junior varsity cruised to an 8-0 win.
STALEY 1, FORT OSAGE 0: Fort Osage missed a chance to clinch the Suburban Middle Seven title, as Staley’s Scott Taylor broke a scoreless deadlock in the 68th minute and the visiting Falcons made it stand.
The Indians (14-6 overall) fell back into a conference first-place tie with Staley (11-11), each at 9-2. Fort Osage can clinch at least a share of the title Thursday at North Kansas City, depending on the outcome of Staley’s game today against Raytown.
“It was a back-and-forth game,” Fort Osage coach Andrew Fletcher said. “It was just a fun game, disappointing to lose, obviously. We get another chance (to clinch), though.”
OAK PARK 2, WILLIAM CHRISMAN 1: Josue Najera’s unassisted goal in the 64th tied the game, but the Northmen went back ahead in the 70th minute on their way to a Suburban Middle Seven victory at Staley High School.
The last several games the boys have been playing well; they just haven’t figured out how to pull the victory out,” Chrisman coach John Straub said after his team fell to 4-13 overall (1-10 conference).
Oak Park’s junior varsity claimed a 2-0 victory.