Grain Valley blanks Platte County to earn first girls soccer state final four berth
Whenever the Grain Valley girls soccer team is on the field, it usually dominates possession.
That wasn't the case in Saturday's Class 3 state quarterfinal game against Platte County.
The Eagles controlled possession in the first half, while the Pirates got off more shots in the second. Overall, possession was fairly even between both teams.
Grain Valley sophomore goalkeeper Camihle Williams, who hasn't seen the ball come her way much in most games, came up big when the Eagles needed it most.
She tallied six saves, three of which were eye-popping in a 2-0 win at Moody Murry Memorial Field, giving the Eagles their first state final four berth in program history.
They will face St. Louis Notre Dame in a Class 3 state semifinal at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at World Wide Technology Soccer Park in Fenton, Mo.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Grain Valley coach Tyler Nichol said of making the final four with the girls for the first time. “We had an idea early in the season that it was going to be this matchup in this game. It’s a game we’ve been waiting for."
Williams was a huge part of Grain Valley's victory. She had a couple of diving stops in the first half and stopped a point-blank shot from Platte County’s Addison Bradley late in the second half. Williams plays an aggressive style and often comes off her line to challenge ball handlers.
“To be in goal, you have to be willing to sacrifice yourself,” Williams said. “It helps your team a lot. If I hadn’t done that, we probably would have had to go to overtime. I know I am going to get hurt, it’s only for a second. It’s not like it’s a baseball or a bowling ball.”
Coming off her line almost backfired late in the first half. A Platte County player lofted a shot toward an empty net when Williams was on the ground at the top of the penalty box. But center back Sophie Broockerd used a sliding kick to knock the ball away when it looked like it was going in.
Williams had a similar situation in the second half but Platte County’s Allie Corbin overshot the empty net.
“Camihle was phenomenal today,” Nichol said. “She’s not afraid to come off her line as you saw. It made me nervous a couple of times. It was a risk-versus-reward thing.
"She’s aggressive and that’s not something we want to coach out of her. When she comes off her line Sophie and Lexie (Arreguin) know to drop back and protect the net."
While Williams and her back line protected the goal, the Eagles (21-2-1) did enough on offense to get to state.
Sophomore Kylie Barnett, who missed half the season with a broken foot, scored in the 24th minute off a rebound that was deflected by Pirate goalkeeper Avery Krahenbill.
Barnett said she was only supposed to be out for a month or a few weeks but the pain wouldn’t go away. That’s why when she came back around the 13th game of the season, Nichol decided to only play her five minutes per game.
From there, he slowly increased her minutes each week as the sophomore came off the bench. After a few weeks, Barnett said she felt 100 percent, just in time for Saturday’s Class 3 quarterfinal game against Platte County.
“(The pain) just kept continuing throughout the season when people stepped on it,” Barnett said. “Now I’m finally getting back. I got a great assist from (Annabelle Totta). I had to contain my excitement and remain calm.
“Today it felt good. In past games, it (the right foot) has been a little swollen."
The chemistry of the Eagles was unaffected by the addition of Barnett. It made an already potent offense – led by senior Raena Childers – stronger.
“When she came back from injury, she showed up and played amazing,” said Totta, a freshman midfielder. “She keeps her head up and she can find people. She has amazing footwork and she is able to keep possession when she has it and get rid of it at the right spot.”
Nichol said he was getting emotional talking about Barnett’s big moment.
“I can’t say enough about her. She works so hard all the time,” Nichol said. “We are just excited for her. It was awesome for her to be the one who made the game-winning goal. It’s a moment she will never forget.”
Totta scored Grain Valley's second goal when she executed a perfect give-and-go with freshman Emma Thiessen. Totta took the return pass and tucked a shot inside the far post from the right wing with 15:45 remaining for the 2-0 advantage.
“I was excited because we were right in front of the goal and it was because of Emma’s perfect pass to me, and I was able to finish it,” Totta said.
The Eagles will now shift their focus to St. Louis Notre Dame, which defeated Imperial Windsor 3-2 in overtime in its quarterfinal game.
“To be honest, we don’t know a lot about them,” Nichol said. “We will watch film tonight and tomorrow and find out as much as we possibly can. Just based on their results, we know they are a quality team. After looking at the teams they beat, I thought, ‘Wow. How are they not ranked in the top five?’”