The Grain Valley girls soccer team started hot in its Tuesday afternoon game against visiting Oak Grove. But then the Eagles had to make sure they didn’t get too hot.
With two goals in the first nine minutes and shooting chances seemingly popping up without interruption, Grain Valley could afford to substitute with some frequency and concentrate on a possession offense in what became a 5-1 Missouri River Valley Conference West win.
Sianna Aumua and Samantha Berg scored two goals apiece for Grain Valley (12-8, 4-1 MRVC), and Nathalia Barr added her team-high 22nd goal.
“It was a conference game, so it was a must-win,” Eagles coach Aleana Balistreri said. “The heat didn’t help much, and we had a couple starters out – Kylie Wagener and Reighan Childers (who played a couple minutes in the second half before hobbling off with a nagging injury). It was nice we could use some of our subs and work on the things we need to work on late in the season.”
With no junior varsity game, and varsity game starting at 4:30 p.m. due to an activities conflict at Oak Grove, players dealt with the first noticeably warm game of the season on a heat-sucking artificial surface.
“The girls just aren’t used to drinking as much water as they need to now, and staying hydrated throughout the day,” Balistreri said. “Yesterday was our first practice where it was really warm. We need to be able to play in this heat for all 80 minutes. They’re all going to be hot now.”
Aumua got Grain Valley started in the seventh minute by tapping in a rebound from Berg’s sharp-angle blast. Two minutes later Berg scored from another tight angle on the right as she received a friendly bounce from the far post. Kali Carson got the assist.
In the 34th Berg flew in free from the left wing and booted a 12-yarder past Oak Grove goalkeeper Savannah Taylor for a 3-0 halftime lead.
“It gets tough playing in the heat,” Berg said. “We wanted to work on getting our passing back, getting our touches down and getting shots on frame.”
By halftime the Eagles had taken 17 shots, and they finished with 31, 16 of them on goal. They also took all six of the game’s corner kicks.
Aumua converted an assist from Barr to the front of the net in the 51st minute, and Barr punched in an 11-yarder off another Carson assist in the 62nd minute to make it 5-0.
Oak Grove (6-11-1, 0-7) avoided the shutout in the next minute when Sarah Sperry beat her defender and grounded a shot past Grain Valley keeper Darby Scharfenkamp.
Taylor made 11 saves, and Scharfenkamp made one save against four total Oak Grove shots. But for Oak Grove coach Michael Brown, Tuesday represented a better game than the first Eagle-Panther contest, which ended prematurely on the 10-goal mercy rule.
“It was a good improvement – much better defensively than when we saw them the last time,” Brown said. “Early on we struggled a little bit (with scoring), but we’re finding the net a lot more than in previous years.”
Barr said Tuesday’s win was a good building block as the Eagles near postseason play.
“We were just trying to work on some of the things we’ve worked on in practice,” she said. “Move players in and out and keep possession.
“We’ve had a really tough schedule, but I think we’ve done well. We’ve had some close losses, but I think we’ve overcome them.”