St. Michael falls in penalty kicks in state championship game

By Greg Uptain
Special to The Examiner
St. Michael the Archangel Catholic players react after falling short in a penalty kick shootout to John Burroughs of St. Louis in the Class 1 state championship game Thursday at World Wide Technology Soccer Park in Fenton, Mo. The Guardians and Bombers played to a 2-2 tie in regulation but fell in the shootout after two scoreless overtimes.

FENTON, Mo. – It certainly wasn't the result she and her team wanted, but Victoria Swingle takes solace knowing they left it all out on the field. 

St. Michael the Archangel Catholic grabbed an early second-half lead, but then saw it slip away late before rallying to tie the game and send it into extra time, where the Guardians eventually fell to John Burroughs 3-2 in penalty kicks in the Class 1 championship game Thursday afternoon at World Wide Technology Soccer Park. 

“You couldn't have asked for a better state championship game,” Guardians coach Mary Kroening said. “Both teams battling, giving everything they have and leaving it out on the field. It was the two best teams, I think, in the state. Unfortunately, it had to end in PKs, but it was a great game.”

Swingle tallied both goals for the Guardians to give her six goals in the season's final three games and a team-best 34 this season. 

“I couldn't ask for more. My team gave 100 percent the whole game,” said Swingle, a sophomore forward. “We kept fighting and working, and it came down to PKs and they got lucky and got one more than us.” 

St. Michael the Archangel sophomore forward Victoria Swingle, front right, celebrates with teammates after scoring the tying goal in the 78th minute of the Class 1 state championship against John Burroughs Thursday. Swingle scored both of the Guardians' goals but they fell 4-3 in a penalty kick shootout for a 3-2 loss.

SMA, which finished 18-5, was making its first state finals appearance in the four-year history of the school. 

“Same time next year, we'll hopefully be back here. We never know what the future holds for us, and we want to live in the moment, especially after last year with COVID,” Kroening said. “These girls every game enjoyed the ride. They had fun, off the field they are great friends and it carries over on to the field. The team chemistry is unbelievable.” 

John Burroughs (14-3-1) was making its first state championship appearance since winning the Class 1 title in 2003.

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“We had been practicing PKs for weeks,” Bombers coach Alan Trzecki said. “Going through routines and saying we don't want to leave anything to question. We wanted to be prepared for any possibility.” 

The game got to extra time thanks to a frenetic second half that saw all four of the goals scored in regulation. 

Swingle came out firing after halftime, notching a goal just 1 minute, 3 seconds after the intermission. After a free kick from midfield, she slipped between two Burroughs defenders, got the loose ball, raced in and sent a shot past diving Bombers goalkeeper Lindley Morton for a 1-0 lead. 

St. Michael the Archangel sophomore forward Victoria Swingle, left, is congratulated by goalkeeper Kayce Cooper after Swingle scored the Guardians' first goal in the Class 1 state championship against John Burroughs Thursday. Swingle scored both of the Guardians' goals but they fell 3-2 in a penalty kick shootout.

“It's kind of like my secret weapon where I hide in back and when they're not looking, I run past them real quick and beat them,” Swingle said. “My team hit a good ball, I ran right through it and they couldn't see me coming.” 

Swingle had a golden opportunity to make it a two-goal lead just 1:21 later when she was pulled down inside the box, but her penalty kick was stopped by a diving Morton. 

“I complimented her after the game and told her that was a good save,” Swingle said. “I should have made it, but at least I made it later.” 

The Bombers finally broke through with 8:23 left in regulation when Alice Crowley unleashed a left-foot rocket from 25 yards out that arched over Cooper and into the net for the equalizer. 

Burroughs then seized momentum on a goal by Madeline Dornfeld with 2:51 left in regulation, but Swingle answered with an equalizer of her own just 42 seconds later. 

“I saw the looks on everyone's faces and they were all looking down like the game was over. There was still time on the clock,” Swingle said. “I had my teammate kick the ball all the way down so I could outrun it and then the keeper knocked it and then I knocked it back in and ran right through it.” 

Burroughs hit two crossbars in overtime to bring their total to four bars and three goalposts hit in the game, but it remained a 2-2 game heading into the shootout. 

The first two shooters scored to keep things even, but on the third shot, Lauren Rybowicz connected for SMA, while keeper Kayce Cooper made a save on Dornfeld. But given the momentum, the Guardians gave it right back by misfiring on their next shot. 

St. Michael the Archangel goalkeeper Kayce Cooper makes a save on a John Burroughs shot in a penalty kick shootout in the Class 1 state championship game Thursday. The Guardians lost the shootout to fall 3-2.

It was tied 3-3 heading to the fifth shot when SMA missed again, but Cooper saved the day for the moment with a diving save on Crowley to keep the game going. 

Cooper was tremendous all afternoon between the pipes for St. Michael, recording 12 saves. 

“We both came out here with the main goal of a championship and we just fell a little bit short,” Cooper said. “We'll definitely be back here next year even stronger.” 

Each team's sixth shooter scored, but when SMA shanked its seventh shot wide right, Burroughs had a chance to win it and Simran LaBore came through with a goal to the right of a diving Cooper. 

“I was not going to walk off that field with a loss,” LaBore said. “I figured I'd never get an opportunity like this ever – so I'd better take advantage of it.”

Despite the heartbreaking loss, the Guardians cherished what this historical season and a trip to the state championship game meant to their program and community. 

“It's been amazing,” Cooper said. “I've had some of the most fun I've had in my entire 17-year life. It's definitely memories I'll keep forever.” 

With no seniors on the roster, St. Michael is primed to make another run to St. Louis this time next year. 

“We'll use this as motivation,” Swingle said. “Next year, we'll be the ones holding that (first-place) trophy over there.” 

St. Michael the Archangel goalkeeper Kayce Cooper (00) reacts after the Guardians lost a penalty kick shootout in the Class 1 state championship game against John Burroughs of St. Louis Thursday. The  Guardians lost 3-2 after a 2-2 tie in regulation and two scoreless overtime periods.