Less than 24 hours after losing their first conference contest – and coach Tyler Nichol, who was given a controversial red card – the Grain Valley girls soccer team rebounded with one of the best defensive performances of the year.
That defensive gem, in which goalie Lindsey Mangum faced just one shot on goal, combined with goals by Rylan Childers and Marissa Schmitt led to a 2-0 victory over a determined Oak Grove Panthers squad.
The victory gives the Eagles a 7-2 overall record and 3-1 conference mark while the Panthers fell to 6-4 and 0-4.
“I thought the girls played well tonight,” said assistant Eagles coach Zach Herzig, who filled in for Nichol. “I know they really wanted to win for Tyler and wanted to win after last night’s (5-3 loss to Pleasant Hill).”
The Panthers marked Childers throughout the game, but one of the area’s premier forwards zigged and zagged her way through a host of would-be defenders to score the game’s first goal with 12:33 left in the first half.
“They were marking her, and she always had a player defending her,” said teammate Marissa Schmitt, who scored the game’s second goal on a 25-yard bomb that flew over the outstretched arms of Oak Grove goalie Chloee Tripp. “That’s what makes Rylan such a great player – she never gives up. You know she’s going to find a way to score.”
The goal was huge, as the Eagles rarely allowed the ball anywhere near their net or Mangum.
“It’s exciting to score the first goal,” Childers said. “Not so much me scoring the first goal, but getting the first goal of the game. I was marked the entire game, but was able to get that goal and give our team the lead.”
The lead was 1-0 until Schmitt unloaded a cannon-like shot that drew appreciative applause from the Eagles faithful who made the trip to Oak Grove.
“That goal felt good,” said Schmitt, as Tripp stopped a similar shot midway through the first half. “I saw the opening, took the shot and hoped I could get it over her. It had enough loft to get over her and go into the net.”
That was pretty much the match, as Mangum could have spent much of the game in an easy chair thanks to her defensive-minded teammates.
“Our defense was great tonight,” Mangum said. “We really wanted to play well and win tonight after the loss (to Park Hill) last night.”
Added Schmitt: “We were all glad we had this game tonight, so close after the loss to Pleasant Hill. It’s nice to think about a win and not think about our first conference loss.”
While Michael Brown was not thrilled with the final score, he was pleased with his team’s effort – especially the play of Tripp in goal.
“Chloee was great in goal, just great,” Brown said. “They had so many scoring opportunities that she stopped. We did everything we could to stop Childers, and we managed to do a pretty good job, but she still scored a goal. We didn’t win, but I was proud of the effort.”