The Park Hill junior forward took full advantage, sprinting into the box and jinking by defenders before sliding a shot past Park Hill South goalkeeper Haley Mills late into the proceedings Tuesday, May 26 at Park Hill District Soccer Complex. Catano’s golden goal delivered a 1-0 victory for the Trojans in a Class 4 sectional matchup against Park Hill South — the first playoff meeting between the two intradistrict rivals.
The goal advanced Park Hill to the next round in the program’s first playoff appearance since 2005 and provided only the smallest separation between the two programs after three meetings this season.
“It was really surprising,” Catano said. “I thought it was going to go wide. It made it in somehow. I’ve never felt that feeling before, but we are all super happy.”
Park Hill and Park Hill South split the Suburban Conference Red Division after each scored a shutout win during a span of three days in the final week of the regular season. Both went on to claim district titles, setting up the historic rubber match.
For 80 minutes of regulation, the teams went scoreless, forcing the tense sudden-death scenario. Park Hill went more than 160 minutes scoreless against the Panthers, who won 1-0 on the final day of the season to force the league title split.
“They should be very proud of themselves,” Park Hill coach Brandt Bell said. “This is a big step for this program. It’s been a very long time since we’ve been in a position to do anything like this. It’s to their credit and everything they’ve done.”
Each team had one golden opportunity to score a goal in regulation.
Park Hill’s came in the 51st minute after Catano was put through on goal. Mills rushed out and managed to make save after the shot hit her and went wide of the goal. Park Hill South answered two minutes later when senior midfielder Anna Courtney ripped a shot from the top of the 18-yard box past diving goalkeeper Kelbey Emerson (4 saves).
The ball deflected off the left upright, and Park Hill defender Taylor Buckholz hacked the ball clear.
“We knew it was going to be a really good game,” Park Hill South coach Joe Toigo said. “They have a nice team, for sure. We knew it would be a hard challenge. We almost got it a few times. To be honest with you, I thought it was going to go to penalty kicks.”
In the final half hour both teams enjoyed long stretches of possession but had little traction in the attacking third.
Overtime was all Park Hill. Alison Walls, a freshman forward, nearly won the game for the Trojans in the first minute of the first extra period, but their leading goal-scorer dragged her shot inches wide of Mills’ near post.
Park Hill continued to press for the winner until Catano found twine and had her teammates surround her in jubilation.
“We’ve built toward it all year,” Bell said. “We were ready for this. Credit to Park Hill South. They made us work harder than we ever had to work before. At the end, these girls did what they had to do.”
Park Hill advances to play St. Teresa’s Academy on Saturday, May 30 in one of four Class 4 quarterfinal matchups. Start time for the game at Park Hill District Soccer Complex was not immediately available after the game. The Stars took the regular season matchup with Park Hill by a score of 2-0 in early April.
Park Hill 3, Staley 0
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Trojans tallied a key goal almost on the stroke of halftime to bury the Falcons in the Class 4 District 16 championship game Thursday, May 21.
Staley pushed heavy numbers forward with the clock winding down in the first half at North Kansas City District Activities Complex. The Falcons were hoping to cut into a two-goal deficit, but Park Hill defender Jenna Winebrenner cleared a shot off the line to start a swift and unexpected counterattack.
Catano finished her second goal just before the halftime whistle to increase the Trojans’ lead to 3-0 on the way to their first playoff appearance since 2005.
“It was bizarre,” Bell said. “You’re scared that they are going to cut the lead in half and suddenly you get a break away. Bella Catano did a fantastic job of continuing to move the ball forward and just placing it.”
Staley earned a free kick near the center circle with less than a minute before intermission.
Emerson came off her line to try and punch the ball clear, but after the ball caromed around, Staley sent a shot goalward. Winebrenner’s clearance found senior Raena Woodruff, who found Catano and sent her racing past Staley’s last defender.
Catano calmly curled the ball into the net near the end of the 40th minute.
“It was pretty exciting,” Catano said. “I just wanted to score to get the 3-0 lead and be set from there.”
Park Hill went in front in the 14th minute when sophomore midfielder Sam Paulak found some space 27 yards from goal and took her opportunity well. A laser strike bent through the air and hit the net just under the crossbar.
“Honestly, I thought it went over,” Paulak said. “It just made me feel good to get a lead, and we didn’t go behind. We could then set the pace. I knew we had to keep it up because we couldn’t play like the last time we played them (a 1-1 draw in the Smithville Invitational).”
Catano doubled the lead 16 minutes later, dribbling through the defense and taking a shot from the edge of the 18-yard box. The effort went across the face of the goal and bounced past the outstretched arm of the Staley keeper Mercedes Daniels (7 saves).
In the second half Park Hill enjoyed most of the possession and allowed just one shot on goal for the game.
Park Hill South 2, Liberty 1, OT
RIVERSIDE, Mo. — Shay Jackson managed to put just enough force on her header to end upset possibilities, even if her teammates waited for an agonizing moment to make sure.
The Park Hill South senior forward’s golden goal in the 89th minute of the Class 4 District 15 championship game delivered the win at Park Hill District Soccer Complex. The Panthers fought back after Liberty equalized in the second half and turned its thoughts to reversing the result of two earlier meetings between the two teams.
In the ninth minute of the first overtime period, Park Hill South senior Carli Hanlon’s corner kick just missed the head of Courtney, bounded through the box and found Jackson at the back post. Her headed shot went high and off the fingertips of Blue Jays goalkeeper Chiarra Franklin before rolling off the top and into the net.
Jackson’s goal set up a spirited group hug in front of the goal in the south end of the field, locking up Park Hill South’s first playoff appearance since 2012.
“I knew right when that ball was going over my head that Shay was going to get a head on it, and she hit it perfectly,” said Courtney, the opening goalscorer in the matchup and, like Jackson, a signee to play Division I soccer next season. “
Hanlon kept connecting on passes with Jackson until the combination finally produced the winning goal.
Overall, Franklin made nine saves, including a flurry of activity after Marissa Adams leveled the score at 1-1 for Liberty with a goal in the 53rd minute. Jackson, who hit the left post with a one-time shot off a drop pass from Meghan Jones moments before Adams’ tally, forced three of Franklin’s saves in the remainder of regulation as her shot total ballooned to double digits.
Park Hill South did dominate in terms of shots and quality scoring chances.
A Hanlon free kick from about 35 yards out found Jackson’s head in the 18th minute, but Franklin punched it out for her first save, resulting in an ineffective corner. Five minutes later, a through ball from Hanlon sent Jackson free but her left-footed shot went straight at the keeper.
Courtney put the Panthers up 1-0 with 11 minutes left before halftime, ambling through an open spot in the midfield before firing a rocket from 29 yards out that pinged off the right post and all the way back across into the left netting.
“I knew I had the right space to just rip it, so I did,” Courtney said. “It hit right on that inside, and I saw a little bit of the net move. I knew it was going in.”
The lead held until Adams’ equalizer on a loose ball off of a corner recharged Liberty’s upset hopes.
However, the Panthers stayed level with Mills making four saves and giving the offense time to find the winner and avoid the potential of penalty kicks.