• Eagles fall in first playoff

  • Over the years, Notre Dame de Sion has become a measuring stick for the Grain Valley girls soccer team.

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  • Over the years, Notre Dame de Sion has become a measuring stick for the Grain Valley girls soccer team.
    The Eagles have used Sion to mark where they’re at, and how much work they have left to do. So Tuesday’s 2-1 Class 2 Sectional loss at Blue Springs South High School indicated that Grain Valley absolutely belongs in the state tournament, but the program still has to prove it can last.
    The Eagles (15-6) took a 1-0 lead in the 47th minute when Nathalia Barr lofted a pass over the Sion defense to Devan Fairfield who bashed a shot past goalkeeper Jane Crook. But even with momentum, the lead didn’t feel safe to Grain Valley.
    “I knew one goal was definitely not going to be enough to keep the lead,” said Eagles sophomore midfielder Reighan Childers.
    As the second half progressed, Sion (12-8-1) kept charging, and the Eagle defense tired. It showed in the 64th minute when Sion’s Anna Romano fired a shot that careened off the Grain Valley goalpost. For a brief moment, the Eagle defense froze, and Betsy Barnthouse raced in and rocketed a shot past Grain Valley goalkeeper Darby Scharfenkamp.
    “I could tell we were getting a little bit tired,” Grain Valley coach Aleana Balistreri said. “This late in the season, conditioning shouldn’t be an issue, but we definitely were starting to play not as strong as we had been the whole game.”
    Childers nearly connected on a breakaway attempt a minute later, but her shot sailed wide of the goal. In the 68th minute, Sion’s Alexis Cutrera hit a cross to Tasha Wyche, who finished the game-winner.
    “After they scored their first goal to tie it, we kind of hung our heads a little more and they were ready to go,” Childers said.
    The defeat ended the deepest Grain Valley run in program history, but it also showed how far the squad has progressed since losing to Sion 9-0 two years ago. The Eagles split two regular-season meetings with the Storm prior to Tuesday’s match, and all three were one-goal contests.
    “We keep improving every year and getting better and better,” Fairfield said.
    Now, with only senior Cory Henson departing, Grain Valley will focus on proving that the program has some staying power.
    “Now we know we can do it,” Balistreri said. “We can get to that level. It’s just getting here every year.”
    Follow Shawn Garrison on Twitter: @GarrisonEJC

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