The sectional round and the Kearney Bulldogs have been a thorn in the side of the Grain Valley girls soccer team in recent years.
The Eagles had to contend with both Tuesday and it turned out to be a bad combination as their season came to an end in a 4-0 home loss in a Class 3 sectional playoff.
“It just wasn’t our day,” Grain Valley coach Tyler Nichol said. “It was going to take a near-perfect game from us to win. Little mistakes killed us in the first half and compounded in the second half.”
No. 4 Class 3 state-ranked Kearney controlled possession throughout the game and Kearney’s star forward Caroline Kelly wreaked havoc on the Grain Valley defense with a hat trick.
“She’s a great player,” Nichol said of Kelly. “She is very smart and understands the game. She knows how to make it tough for defenders.”
The Bulldogs got off nine shots in the first 10 minutes and Kelly later converted the 11th. She was fouled about 33 yards away from the goal and put in a perfect direct free kick over the outstretched hands of a leaping goalkeeper Raegan Beeding and under the crossbar for a 1-0 lead.
Kelly received a centering pass from a teammate and beat Beeding on a challenge for her second goal, giving Kearney a 2-0 lead going into halftime.
The Eagles (11-8) had a couple of near goals in the first half. Sophomore Raena Childers spun around a defender and rolled a shot that appeared it was going to go inside the left post. However, Kearney goalkeeper Mayson Behney made a diving stop to prevent a goal early on.
“Five minutes into the game she makes a diving save on Raena’s shot,” Nichol said. “If she makes that, it’s a completely different game. (Behney) played a great game.”
Behney later made another diving save when Kailey Larson had a breakaway shot from the right wing that was headed inside the far post. She stopped all six of Grain Valley’s shots on goal.
Kelly put it away early in the second half when she outran two Eagles defenders and beat Beeding on another challenge to make it 3-0.
Mia Atkins capped the scoring for the Bulldogs when she put in a rebound in the 64th minute.
It was Grain Valley’s sixth loss in sectionals in the past seven years but Nichol was pleased with the season as his squad won its seventh consecutive district championship.
“We played a tough schedule,” Nichol said. “Out of the four Class 4 schools still in the playoffs in our region, we played Blue Springs, Liberty and Staley. We beat Blue Springs and lost to Liberty and Staley. We really challenged ourselves and I am proud of the girls for that.
“We return 10 starters and hopefully we’ll be even better next year.”