Guardians, Panthers advance to state for first time

The Examiner staff

The St. Michael the Archangel Catholic and Oak Grove girls soccer programs will mark Saturday, May 29, 2021, in the record books. 

That was the day the Guardians and Panthers earned their first trips to the state final four. 

St. Michael, behind Victoria Swingle’s hat trick, downed St. Joseph Bishop LeBlond 5-0 in its Class 1 state quarterfinal Saturday at Raytown South High School. 

Oak Grove earned its trip by scoring late and staving off Bolivar for a 3-2 win at home in a Class 2 state quarterfinal Saturday. 

“From the first day of training, we have set our goal of getting to the final four and bringing SMA its first state championship,” St. Michael coach Mary Kroening said. “This talented and special group of girls has what it takes to achieve this. Such a fun group to be with. Such a blessing to coach them and see the growth over the season.” 

Avery Basler scored on an assist from Swingle in the 35th minute to give St. Michael a 1-0 lead after a tight first half. 

“There was a lot of emotion in Saturday’s game,” Kroening said. “I think the girls were pressing a little early on but then settled down and started to play our game. Every single girl on this team contributes and steps up when we need it. … We had a lot of former players cheering us on Saturday. They missed out last year and we played for them as well.” 

Swingle then took over in the second half to seal the first trip to state for the Guardians. 

She scored in the 63rd minute on an assist from Sophia Roccaro. Swingle struck again in the 63rd minute on a pass from Sophia VanHorn. Just two minutes later, she completed the hat trick on an assist from Elena Stoehr. 

Erica Scheier capped it for the Guardians (17-4) with a final goal in the 79th minute. 

St. Michael meets Lutheran South of St. Louis (9-10) at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday in a Class 1 state semifinal at World Wide Technology Soccer Park in Fenton, Mo. The third-place and championship games are set for 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Thursday. 

Class 2 

Kealyn Wilkinson scored on a cross from Meredith Forthofer in the 73rd minute and Oak Grove survived the final minutes to advance to state for the first time. 

“Once we took the lead in the 73rd minute I played defensive and we survived," Oak Grove coach Zach Herzig said. “Bolivar was a great team and it could have gone either way. I am so glad to be on the team advancing. 

“This is the first time a soccer team from Oak Grove has advanced to the final four. We are very excited to have this opportunity.” 

Annika Holtorf made school history in the first half to give the Panthers the lead. She scored in the 34th minute and then struck again in the 36th minute – both on assists from Jordan Hall. 

With those goals Holtorf broke Sarah Sperry’s single-season goal record of 35. They were her 36th and 37th goals of the season. 

Bolivar, though, struck twice early in the second half to tie it, scoring in the 42nd and 47th minutes. 

“This was a tale of two halves,” Herzig said. “The game started back and forth. We finally got it going in the last 10 minutes of the first half. 

“We started the second half very shaky and Bolivar capitalized. … Then the panic started to set in for us. We never really had a grasp of the game in the second half. We really only had a few opportunities. One of them consisted of Meredith taking the ball down the line and crossing it in so Kealyn could finish.” 

That was enough as goalkeeper Destiny Valentine kept Bolivar off the scoreboard the rest of the way. She finished with nine saves and survived seven Bolivar corner kicks. 

Oak Grove (21-2) meets St. Charles (14-8) in a Class 2 state semifinal at 10 a.m. Friday at World Wide Technology Soccer Park in Fenton, Mo. The third-place and championship games are set for 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Saturday.