Grain Valley knew what it had to do to keep Platte County out of the net Saturday. And for almost 94 minutes of soccer, the Eagles did just that.
Just one minute – and one goal – shy of being enough.
In that minute, the last of a 15-minute overtime in the Class 3 state quarterfinal, Platte County did just what it needed to win – a goal off a free kick. And just like that, Grain Valley’s season ended with a heartbreaking 1-0 loss on the Eagles’ home field.
Platte County (25-1) is especially effective at creating goals off set pieces. So when the Pirates were awarded a free kick just out of the right side of the 18-yard box with the first extra period about to end, the Eagles prepared to thwart it, just as they had on every other throw-in, free kick and corner kick over the previous 94 minutes.
Chase Peterson took the free kick for Platte County, which landed in a scrum in front of the goal. A header went off the post, and Pirates forward Aaron Cordova was in position to rebound and knock it in.
“That last one was unlucky,” said Grain Valley goalkeeper Bryant Madden. “It went off the post, I got out of position … just stinks.”
Grain Valley coach Ty Nichol couldn’t fault Madden or the Eagles’ defense. Madden collected 13 saves as the Eagles stood up to a flurry of Pirate throw-ins and free kicks.
“To be honest, we had defended them really well throughout the whole game,” Nichol said. “But if they get that many of them, they’re going to score on one eventually. It’s the story of us not taking advantage of the two or three really good chances that we had in the run of play.”
Grain Valley (15-5-1) created numerous opportunities with breakaways and corner kicks. Senior Jack Knust, who finished just one shy of a school season-record 31 goals, just missed a header off a corner kick in the 33rd minute. Forward Kendall Schrader couldn’t convert two breakaways in the second half; Knust and forward Alex Engram had on-frame chances during overtime.
“On any given day I think we’re good for one of those,” Nichol said. “But it kind of wasn’t our day today.”
It was Platte County’s day, and the Pirates moved on to their first state final four appearance. Platte County plays Neosho in the Class 3 semifinals Friday at the World Wide Technology Soccer Park in Fenton.
Grain Valley had hoped for a third trip to state and its first since 2016. Of its five losses this season, three came from Platte County – all by one goal. As much as that stung Saturday, the Eagles still took pride in making the final eight one year after posting a losing record.
“I’m definitely proud that we’re here,” Madden said. “The loss stinks, but I’m proud of the team that we grew into. If you had told me in July this is how it’d look, I’d never have believed it.”