To call coach Tyler Nichol’s Grain Valley Eagles a senior-laden squad might be an understatement.
His girls soccer team has 15 upperclassmen, including three who are listed on the junior varsity roster. Nichol has so many experienced players that sometimes he feels like the Eagles don’t even need him.
“There are many times I don’t have to run the warm-up at practice or at games,” Nichol said. “I can not show up to the game and they would be focused and ready to go.”
Those 15 seniors have been a part of a team that has put together one of the best seasons in program history. It was another special night Tuesday as the Eagles, behind a hat trick from Rylan Childers, completed a 8-0 rout of Missouri River Valley Conference West rival Oak Grove on Senior Night at Moody Murry Memorial Field.
“I can’t say enough about the success they have had the last four years,” Nichol said of his seniors. “A lot of them have been playing and starting since their freshman year. I am going to try to enjoy them while they are here.
“I would go that far (to say this is my most talented team). From top to bottom, we have a lot of talent. They have been playing together for a long time.”
Eagles senior defender Maddie Knust noted how nice it was to have so many seniors on the team.
“I think it’s really cool that we have so many seniors,” Knust said. “We talked about it before the game. We have too many seniors for even a starting 11 to play.”
Grain Valley added to its successful season Tuesday, improving to 17-2 overall and 7-0 in the MRVC West. A couple of those wins included victories against perennial powerhouses like Blue Springs South and Lee’s Summit North, two teams the Eagles have never beaten before.
A lot of that can be contributed to the team’s chemistry as most of the seniors have played together for the past four years.
“This year has changed a lot,” said Eagles senior Kailey Boyer, who scored one goal Tuesday. “Freshman year, we were all new. Our level of play was way different then than it is now. We really work well as a team now and have become less selfish.”
Added senior Marissa Schmitt, who also had a goal: “This has the chance to be our best year ever. And we could go the farthest we ever have in the postseason.”
That chemistry was on display for the Eagles’ second goal. On a direct free kick from the top of the box, Schmitt passed it forward to Knust, who passed it back to senior Rylan Childers at the top of the box. Childers then bounced a shot off the right post and into the the back of the net.
“We run that play in practice,” Knust said. “I felt like I was playing basketball, boxing someone out (as she had three defenders behind her on the pass). Then I laid it off to Rylan.”
For former Grain Valley assistant and current Oak Grove head coach Zach Herzig, he is relieved he won’t have to face off against a talented Eagles senior group anymore.
“It’s going to be OK not seeing them,” Herzig said. “Rylan is a great player and Marissa Schmitt is just as great. Both have bright futures in soccer. I will follow them from afar to see how well they do in college.”
This game could mark an end of a rivalry that has dated back to 2008. Next year, the Eagles will move to the Suburban Conference and will no longer be in the MRVC West with the Panthers (11-7, 3-5). It is uncertain whether the longtime rivals will play each other next season, according to Nichol.
“I think we might be ready for something new,” Nichol said of the conference change. “We’ve enjoyed playing in the MRVC and there have been some quality teams. But there might be more teams that are on our level in the Suburban Conference.”
Added Herzig: “We hope to see them at least once a season. Coach Nichol and I have a lot of respect for each other. We can make it happen.”
Kailey Larson scored two goals and Sophie Broockerd added one to help Grain Valley dominate.