Raena Childers scores both goals as Grain Valley advances to Platte County Invitational final

By Cody Thorn
The Examiner
Grain Valley's Raena Childers (6) moves the ball down field in Wednesday's game against Kearney in the Platte County Tournament. Childers scored both goals as the Eagles snapped a losing streak to the Bulldogs that dated back to 2017 with a 2-1 win to advance to the tourney's championship.

PLATTE CITY, Mo. — Raena Childers finally got a victory against Kearney.

The Grain Valley senior standout and Kansas signee scored both goals to lift her team to a 2-1 victory over Kearney in a game at the Platte County Invitational.

The win vaults the Eagles (2-0) into the championship game of the tournament at 6:30 p.m. Friday against Staley, a Class 4 qualifier in 2019.

To reach the finals the Eagles had conquered some past haunts by snapping a seven-game losing streak to Kearney that dates back to the 2017 season. Childers and the other seniors on the Eagles had lost all five meetings they’ve had against the Bulldogs – including twice in the Class 3 playoffs. Kearney ended the Eagles’ 2019 season – the last one played before the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out last year – in a sectional playoff on the way to a third-place finish at state.

“It is a huge relief; I’ve been trying to beat them since my freshman year,” said Childers, a two-time all-state pick. “The adrenaline going through my body – I’m still shaking right now. It is an unbelievable team we have this year. I’m so happy for the freshmen that came in and our squad is awesome. I’m excited for the rest of the season.”

Grain Valley freshman Emma Thiessen (3) and Kearney's Moria Olberding (20) battle for position in Wednesday's game in the Platte County Tournament. The Eagles claimed a 2-1 win to snap a losing streak against the Bulldogs.

Kearney struck first, getting a goal from Emily Shepherd in the 29th minute. A shot toward Grain Valley goalkeeper Camihle Williams. The sophomore got a deflection but the ball rolled in the box and Shepherd buried it in the back of the net.

The score remained 1-0 until the 61st minute, but the Eagles had plenty of chances. A free kick in the 24th minute was knocked out of bounds by Kearney goalkeeper Lily Ellis. That was the start of three straight corner kicks for the Eagles, but the Bulldogs turned away each attempt.

A big play on the defensive end led to Grain Valley’s first goal. Williams collided with a Kearney attacker near the front of the goal box. The ball was loose and Kearney got a shot on goal but defender Lexi Arreguin stepped into the goal and cleared it.

A minute later, Childers was charging at the goal at the other end when she was tackled inside the Kearney box. That led to a penalty kick. Childers got the better of her KC Athletics Academy ECL '02 teammate Ellis, beating her on her left side to tie the game.

“I don’t ever look at the goalie. I just kept looking at the ref and then I knew I was going to go to the right corner,” Childers said.

Ten minutes later, she ended it with a goal with a shot from about 15 yards out, again going to the right corner, just inside the post.

Kearney had a chance to tie with less than two minutes left but a free kick from 30 yards out sailed over the crossbar.

“It is a battle every time but I’m not sure we have played them this early in the season,” Grain Valley coach Tyler Nichols said. “It is good to play them since we are not in the same division (conference) anymore. It was a good win, especially for the upperclassmen. They have never beaten Kearney – maybe a little bit of a mental barrier to break through and that was big for us. We got a young team and I think ignorance is bliss for all those freshmen we got in the game.”

This will be only the fifth meeting between Grain Valley and Staley – all of them coming in tournaments. The latter two have been in this tournament, with Grain Valley winning in 2017 and Staley winning in 2019. Platte County against Kearney will face off for third place and St. Pius X and Pleasant Hill will play for fifth.

“It is always a tough tournament,” Nichols said. “When the fifth-place game is two teams that have gone to state in Class 2 the last few years, you know it is a quality tournament. It is a great early-season tournament and we love coming here.”