The Fort Osage girls soccer team found itself in unfamiliar territory in Thursday’s Suburban Middle Seven showdown with rival William Chrisman.
Chrisman jumped out to a 2-0 lead after what Fort Osage head coach Michael Brown said was a sluggish effort. But the resilient Indians found a way to overcome that deficit to earn a 3-2 win in the de facto conference championship game on Senior Night.
With the win, Fort Osage improved to 15-1 overall and 9-0 in the Middle Seven. It has three games remaining with conference opponents and can clinch at least a share of the league title with a win or a loss from second-place Chrisman (12-3, 7-2). Two wins or a win and a Bears loss would result in an outright title for the Indians.
Fort Osage – which has a solid mix of experienced upperclassmen and talented underclassmen with upside – got the winning goal from sophomore Madison Beckmann. She was wide open on the left side of Chrisman’s 18-yard box and received a cross from senior Bailee Summers and buried her shot in the 78th minute, sending the Indians’ bench and players onto the field into a frenzy.
“It was crazy!” Beckmann said of her goal and the ensuing celebration. “Getting that tie breaking goal at the end of the game was the best feeling in the world.”
The Bears took advantage of the few opportunities they had early. On their second shot on goal, senior forward Tierra Lopez made it count as she received a through ball from freshman Emma Gervy and slipped a shot past goalkeeper Brooklynn Hendrix for a 1-0 lead in the 20th minute.
That score held until halftime and it didn’t take long for Chrisman to extend the lead. Kayli Perez was fouled inside the 18-yard box, giving the Bears a penalty kick. Gervy perfectly placed a shot inside the left post for a 2-0 advantage.
“We had a little bit of a rough start, but I wasn’t worried,” Summers said. “This is the most hard-working team we’ve had in four years, so I trust in (my teammates) fully.”
After Gervy’s goal, the sense of urgency started to kick in for Fort Osage, which dominated possession for the remainder of the game. Sophomore Aliyah Ayala sent a corner kick keep inside the Bears’ penalty box. The ball ping-ponged between a couple of players before Summers knocked in a rebound to cut the lead to 2-1 in the 48th minute.
“We just turned it on in the second half,” Summers said. “We realized we had to get it into gear and we did what we needed to do.”
Added Brown: “After going down 2-0, it would have been very easy to just pack up, shut our brains off and say this thing is over and move on. The girls refused to give up and refused to quit working. I think that showed in the celebration at the end when everyone was pretty fired up.”
The Chrisman defense tightened and made it difficult for the Indians to get open shots after that as goalkeeper Karina Vela made five of her eight saves in the second half.
Ayala, who seemed to have at least two defenders on her at all times, finally got a shot to go in during the 76th minute. Sophia Smith sent a free kick, which acted like a corner kick from the end line on the right side of the field, deep in the 18-yard box. Through a hoard of players, Ayala found enough space to sneak a shot past Vela to tie it, setting the stage for Beckmann’s game-winner.
“She found pockets of space at times, and she was man marked and tight in the middle,” Brown said, “but she popped out to the wing pretty frequently. I told her, ‘Sometimes, it’s not your night.’ But to be there at the end of the set piece is what a goal scorer does.”
The Indians, who have five mercy-rule victories and seven more by at least three goals, gave each other hugs and shouted in jubilation. It was a rare time in which the Indians were on the brink of a loss.
Although his team came up short on a hard-fought loss, Chrisman head coach John Straub was pleased with his team’s effort, but said it had some costly mistakes.
“I thought our girls played a great game today, especially in the first half,” Straub said. “We found a nice balance of forcing the tempo and slowing it down. In the second half, I think the nerves got to us a little bit and we had a lot of silly, stupid, little fouls.”