Oak Grove dominates Van Horn in KC Cup final

Michael Smith
The Examiner

If you ask Oak Grove girls soccer coach Zach Herzig about his team, he would say it plays finesse, possession-style soccer.

So when the Panthers went up against a physical team like Van Horn in the Kansas City Cup tournament championship, they had to adjust.

Both head coaches, however, said the game was a little too physical. In fact, Van Horn junior Cordillia Payne and sophomore Cielle Mupenda were ejected from the game due to red cards in the latter part of the second half.

However, Herzig said he was proud of the way his team handled the chippiness of the game, and it resulted in a 7-2 blowout of the Falcons. It was the Panthers' second straight KC Cup championship.

“It definitely shows our class the way we responded to their violence,” said Herzig, whose team has handed Van Horn its only two losses of the season, including a 3-2 win in overtime last week. “It made me a proud coach that we showed our character.

“I think they really wanted to beat us since we got them last game. It kind of made them mad I would say.”

Van Horn head coach Zach Wilson admitted his team lost its composure.

“We just didn’t maintain our emotions,” Wilson said. “There is nothing Oak Grove did that we shouldn’t have been able to withstand. It was a big physical game.

“Our girls are not used to playing in the big games, and that’s what it comes down to. They never played in big games before. We’re not used to the moment yet.”

But playing through a physical game was worth it for the Panthers (14-2) as the players jumped up and down with the KC Cup trophy in celebration.

“We stayed level-headed,” Oak Grove forward Kealyn Wilkinson said. “We knew we needed to play above them to come out on top of this game. The refs handed them two red cards and we got one yellow.

“I was really happy to win this, especially coming off a big win against Van Horn last week. They were going to come out aggressive because it’s their tournament, but we came out on top and beat (them) again.”

It didn’t take Oak Grove long to establish control as it scored 30 seconds in when senior defender Audrey Forthofer drilled a shot from the right side of the Falcon penalty box inside the far post for a 1-0 lead.

Van Horn tied it in the fifth minute when freshman Adrianna Lara got a feed from sophomore Anya Linstrom halfway inside the penalty box. She turned and fired a shot that deflected off the hands of diving Oak Grove goalkeeper Destiny Valentine and into the net.

Disaster struck for Van Horn (13-2) in the seventh minute when a kick from Oak Grove’s Jordan Hall resulted in an own goal on the Falcons defense, making it 2-1.

Wilkinson knocked in a point-blank header off a corner kick from junior Annika Holtorf in the 21st minute to increase the advantage to two goals. About 2 minutes later, Hall scored on a shot from inside the top of the box for a 4-1 lead.

That lead lasted until halftime before Van Horn’s Alexandria Christman scored in the 58th minute to narrow the gap to 4-2.

However, after Payne got a red card in the 62nd minute, Oak Grove took advantage of the Falcons being one player down.

Holtorf finished off her big night with a pair of breakaway goals late in the second half, and she assisted on the final goal from Wilkinson in the 73rd minute. It was a milestone as Holtorf tied the school record with assists in a season with 24.

“It was just a big team effort,” said Holtorf, who finished with 13 goals in four games in the tournament. “We are just like a big family. We’re really starting to connect and it’s a good time to go into districts soon.

“It’s always good to go to someone else’s tournament and take it over. It’s the best feeling.”

The win was a big one for the Panthers as they continue to climb the Missouri High School Soccer Coaches Association power rankings. Currently, they are ranked No. 3 and that has Herzig thinking this could be the best season in program history.

“Hopefully we can continue to have these games that have that playoff atmosphere and be ready for districts,” Herzig said. “I want to win districts. It’s never been done in girls soccer (at Oak Grove). I hope this is the year.

“We are not weak at any position, and I think we can get far because of that.”