KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Park Hill’s defense stood resolute for the first half.In a playoff rematch of a previous loss, the Trojans were looking to find a way to continue a dream postseason run with a Class 4 quarterfinal upset. Instead, St. Teresa’s Academy scored twice in a span of a minute shortly after halftime to provide all the scoring in a 2-0 win Saturday, May 30 at McDonnel Family Sports Complex.
Park Hill won the District 16 title to advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2005 and then beat rival Park Hill South 1-0 in overtime of a sectional matchup to advance. St. Teresa’s, ranked No.2 in the final Missouri State High School Soccer Coaches Association’s final regular season poll, ended the Trojans’ dream of returning to the state semifinals for the first time since 1993 (fourth place).
“We want to be in that upper echelon of programs,” Park Hill coach Brandt Bell said. “I think for this season we were. We earned everything. I don’t think there was any sort of stroke of luck that went to us or not. We deserved to be here. For that first 40 minutes, we were right with them. We played a really, really strong first half. If you are the underdog and the game’s within reach, that’s a good thing.
“We’d rather be up 1-0, but we’ll be proud of the effort we put out there today.”
St. Teresa’s (20-2-1) won the prior matchup with Park Hill by the same scoreline back in April.
After that loss, the Trojans won 16 of their next 20 games with only three losses, while recording 12 of their 16 shutouts on the season. Jenna Winebrenner, a sophomore all-state defender, led an organized effort to keep the Stars off the scoreboard in the rematch, which occurred almost two months after the first meeting.
The game entered the half scoreless, but both teams had golden opportunities to crack the score column.
Alison Walls, Park Hill’s freshman forward and leading goal scorer, had the best chance for the Trojans in the first half. In the 21st minute, senior forward Rachel England found space on the left flank and drew two defenders, leaving Walls open in the box, but St. Teresa’s goalkeeper Delaney Meyer made a sliding kick save on Walls’ shot to keep the shutout intact.
St. Teresa’s broke through in the 45th minute when Maddie Russell headed in a goal from the 6-yard box off of a corner kick. A minute later Grace Kitts fired a rocket into the net from outside the 18-yard box to put the Stars up 2-0 and on the way to their third straight semifinal appearance.
“We weren’t trying to change anything drastically,” Bell said. “We wanted to use our athleticism and speed. We haven’t seen, aside from them, a team that is that athletic and that fast to keep up with our players. They played their game plan pretty well too. They just executed. We wanted to come in and play our style, possession-oriented soccer. We did that in spurts — not the whole game, but we had good spells of it.”
Park Hill’s youthful lineup received valuable experience, splitting the Suburban League Red Division title with Park Hill South before ending a nearly decade-long playoff drought. The five Trojans who earned first-team all-league honors were all underclassmen, including Winebrenner, junior defender Taylor Bucholz and freshman goalkeeper Kelbey Emerson.
England, defender Olivia Nowakowski and midfielder Allie Simpson were the lone seniors on the roster.
“It’s great for our program and it’s good for our underclassmen,” Bell said. “But, you don’t want to come into this game thinking of next year. You want to focus on this one and do everything you can to win this game, because it’s in the best interests of our seniors who have worked so hard. But, it’s definitely beneficial for us to have this experience going into the future. It’s a big step up for our program.”