Grain Valley girls soccer thwarted by Fort Zumwalt South in Class 3 state championship game
FENTON, Mo. — Raena Childers was not about to be blanked.
Down five goals with less than 10 minutes left and facing her team's first shutout of the year on the offensive end, the Grain Valley senior soccer standout scored twice to close the game. It wasn't enough, but a 5-2 loss to Fort Zumwalt South in the Class 3 state championship game at World Wide Technology Soccer Park was a whole lot easier to swallow than being shut out.
“We knew we didn't want to get shut out,” Childers said. “Once I score one, I wanted to get another and that's what happened. It just sucks that I didn't have enough time to get more.”
After a dominant run to get to state, Grain Valley (22-3-1) was denied a state title in the first championship appearance for its girls soccer program.
“It's disappointing,” Eagles coach Tyler Nichol said. “To be honest with you, I wish we were at full strength tonight. We were missing some players, three starters, due to unfortunate circumstances. We had to throw in some girls in some new positions tonight, but I'm just proud of the girls' effort they put in. It was just a phenomenal season.”
Fort Zumwalt South (22-2) won the first girls soccer title in the school's history. The Bulldogs boys team also won the Class 3 title last fall.
“I felt like the girls had good vibes, good energy coming in,” Fort Zumwalt South coach LeAnne Sanders said. “I wanted them to press hard and press early. And they did it for us.”
Childers and defender Sophie Broockerd were two of four seniors on this year's Grain Valley roster and the only two seniors to start the title game. It was only fitting the longtime best friends were the two to step forward and receive the second-place trophy.
“It's awesome because we've been best friends since fifth grade,” Childers said. “I was blessed to get to play with her.”
Childers, who will play at Kansas, and Broockerd, who is heading to Missouri State but will not play soccer, shared an embrace as the Eagles were announced as the state's second-place Class 3 team.
“It was a really special moment,” Broockerd said. “It was a good note to end on, getting second.”
Grain Valley boasts one of the most dynamic scorers in the state in Childers, but in the title game the Eagles had a hard time containing a freshman sensation.
Audrey Smith notched a hat trick and an assist in Thursday's win. Coupled with a goal and assist in Wednesday's semifinal win, she had four goals and two assists in a little over 24 hours at the state final four.
Photo gallery:Grain Valley girls soccer state semifinal victory
“That freshman, good God, she is good and so fast,” Nichol said. “They are a phenomenal program. Boys side, girls side, they just churn out players. I don't know where they find these forwards at with the blazing speed.”
Smith had a dynamic first half Thursday and she got it started with a goal in the 11th minute off an assist from Sophia Cross.
Smith scored her second goal just 2 minutes, 4 seconds later when a pass from her sister, Ashlyn, sent her in on a breakaway and resulted in a blast from 10 yards out.
Audrey Smith was the distributor on Fort Zumwalt South's third goal just over 11 minutes later when her cross pass into the box was headed in by Isabel Montileone.
Grain Valley had its share of scoring chances in the first half. Bulldogs defender Emily Bloomfield saved one shot off the goal line, Childers had a rocket shot go just wide and Emma Thiessen also had a blast sail just wide.
“We had a couple quality chances there. If we put in one, it's 2-1, and if we get in to half, it's a different game,” Nichol said. “Not taking advantage of those chances and the third goal from them to go down 3-0 is kind of the backbreaker. It's an uphill battle from there.”
Bloomfield made another goal-line save, heading the ball out of danger just over a minute into the second half.
Smith completed her hat trick in the 56th minute when she headed in a cross by the aptly named Cross to make it 4-0.
Claire Andersen made it a five-goal game just over nine minutes later on a play that signaled the end of the night for Grain Valley goalkeeper Camihle Williams.
Williams had been hobbling since the second goal of the game, but on Andersen's goal, it appeared she took a blow to the head. Freshman Morgan Solomon came in and played the final 15 minutes.
Childers finally broke the shutout with 8:42 left to play when she broke in and found the left corner to make it 5-1. She scored again with 3:28 remaining off a free kick for her 58th goal of the season.
The state final marked the last game for Nichol, who is leaving education and coaching. Assistant coach Brett Lewis, who took over the boys program for Nichol last fall, will take over for the girls team next season.
“I couldn't have asked for a better group for my last one this season,” Nichol said. “Brett is a great friend of mine. We grew up since we were 5 years old together, so I'm really excited to get him in and give him the reins. He's gonna do a great job.”
Despite losing a pair of elite seniors in Childers and Broockerd, the Eagles will still have a talented club back under Lewis.
“I was joking that we had to set a record for the youngest starting lineup, starting five freshmen and three sophomores tonight, but obviously it looks good going forward,” Nichol said. “The quality that we have in the younger players, especially this freshman group, is definitely exciting for the future.”