An up-and-down game took Grain Valley girls soccer coach Tyler Nichol and his players through a roller coaster of emotions Tuesday.
From Kearney’s physical play, several calls that the Eagles coaching staff disagreed with, a seesaw battle through two overtimes, a heart-stopping shootout and a teammate being taken away in an ambulance, Grain Valley went through about as much as a team could in a three-hour Class 3 sectional marathon at Kearney High School.
A trip to the Class 3 quarterfinals was on the line against the Bulldogs in a game that came down to the wire.
After a pair of scoreless overtimes, the game went to a shootout. With the shootout tied 4-4, Grain Valley sophomore Sophie Broockerd’s penalty kick was stopped by a goalkeeper Mayson Behney.
Kearney’s Emily Yakle followed that by perfectly placing a PK in the upper right corner of the goal for a 5-4 advantage in penalty kicks that gave the Bulldogs a 3-2 win and ended the Eagles’ season at 23-4-1.
After the ball got by Grain Valley goalkeeper Raegan Beeding, she cupped her hands over her face to hide her tears. The first person to greet her was Kearney sophomore Caroline Kelly, who scored her team’s second goal in regulation. Several other Eagles had tears streaming down their faces as the loss ended the high-school careers for 15 seniors.
Maddie Knust, Marissa Schmidt, Ashlyn Welch and Raena Childers all made their penalty kicks for the Eagles. Broockerd and Rylan Childers both had their PKs stopped by a diving Yakle.
Kearney’s fourth PK from Saige Williams was nearly saved by Beeding, but it bounced off her hand and into the back of the net on a dive. The only miss from Kearney came on a shot that hit the crossbar.
“You can’t fault (Beeding) for that, it was placed fairly well,” Nichol said. “(Penalty kicks) are really just a coin flip.”
A controversial first goal for the Bulldogs led to the game going to two overtime periods. Grain Valley committed a foul in the box in the 38th minute, giving Williams a penalty kick. Beeding stopped the initial attempt, but the referee ruled that the goalkeeper came off her line too soon and gave Kearney another chance to convert. Williams made her second attempt to make it 1-0 and Nichol was beside himself.
“You changed the complexion of the game!” he shouted at one of the officials.
He definitely did not agree with the call.
“I thought it was a good save; I will just leave it that,” Nichol said succinctly.
The Eagles, though, fought back after going into halftime down 1-0. Kearney committed a foul just outside the 18-yard box, setting up Schmitt with a direct free kick. She placed a strong kick in front of the goal, and Broockerd used her hips to push the ball into the goal to tie it up.
“It’s not a common thing to happen, but you just have to get a body part on the ball and get it into the goal,” Nichol said of Broockerd’s goal. “She did a great job putting herself in the right spot.”
A few moments after Abby Berg cleared a ball that almost went into the goal when Beeding couldn’t get there, Kelly had a breakaway opportunity stuffed by Beeding but the ball bounced right back to her as she put in the rebound for a 2-1 edge midway through the second half.
The Eagles again tied it in the 75th minute when Raena Childers sent a direct free kick from 48 yards out toward the Kearney goal. Rylan Childers blocked Yakle’s view and the ball went in on one bounce.
“With the sun in the keeper’s eyes, I told Raena we want her to hit it anywhere she has the opportunity to,” Nichol said. “Raena can hit those shots. She executed.”
Shortly after that, disaster struck for the Eagles. Senior forward Kailey Boyer collided with a Kearney player in a 50-50 tackle at the center line and went down writhing in pain after hurting her ankle. After being tended to by trainers for a long period, she was carried off in a stretcher and put in an ambulance.
“That really hurt us because she was causing issues for our back line,” Nichol said of Boyer’s injury. “We moved Hailey Hunter up top and I thought she did well. We just hope Kailey is OK above everything else.”
Both teams just missed some chances in both overtime periods, but couldn’t convert.
Ultimately, the season came to an end for a talented Grain Valley team. After the game, Nichol greeted his seniors with a hug.
“I can’t say enough about them,” Nichol said of his seniors. “(The postgame speech) was a tough one. They had a big impact on our program. I know coaches say that every year, but this is such a special group. We have seven girls playing college soccer next year, which is unheard of for a school this size.
“It was a great season for us. We had the most wins we’ve ever had.”