RIVERSIDE, Mo. — The offense never materialized for Park Hill against an increasingly stubborn opponent.
St. Teresa’s Academy scored twice in the final 12 minutes to win 2-0 in a Class 4 quarterfinal held Saturday, May 27 at Park Hill District Soccer Complex. The late tallies allowed the Stars to win a third matchup this season with the Trojans, bringing a frustrating end to their otherwise historic season.
The result mirrored a loss in the same round to the same team for Park Hill in the 2015 playoffs.
“To come up this short two years in a row, it’s difficult,” Park Hill coach Brandt Bell said.
Park Hill managed some early chances but failed to score for just the third time this season.
Sarah Hibbeler, a freshman attacking midfielder, pushed a shot just inches past the post in the sixth minute despite a difficult angle. From there, Trojans leading scorer Alison Walls started to apply the pressure with a pair of scoring opportunities. She fired high in the 18th minute against a crowded defense, but 8 minutes before halftime, the Trojans missed out on their best chance.
An error on a throw from St. Teresa’s goalkeeper resulted in a breakaway for Walls with two defenders chasing her. Leigh Campbell rushed out and blocked the shot to keep the score at 0-0.
Campbell ended up making five saves to record the clean sheet.
Park Hill’s chances in the second half were more limited.
Sam Paulak, a junior defender, took a long pass from Taylor Buckholz in the 50th minute before maneuvering through two defenders. Campbell then saved the shot. Park Hill senior Bella Catano set up Buckholz with a chance moments later, but she hit her attempt wide of the goal.
Despite another solid performance from sophomore goalkeeper Kelbey Emerson, Park Hill’s defense finally relented with 12 minutes to play.
St. Teresa’s opened the scoring with a header off of a set piece to take the 1-0 lead, and with time ticking away, the Trojans pressed forward in the remainder trying to find an answer. Instead, the Stars added a second in the waning seconds to provide the final margin.
“The second one comes real late, when we’re pushing numbers forward,” Bell said, “and we’re kind of exposing the back trying to get the equalizer, trying to tie the game.”
Park Hill finished 25-4 with three of the four losses through shutouts, two against St. Teresa’s. In the Stars second win this season vs. the Trojans, they scored three times in the second half to win 3-2, overcoming a 2-0 deficit.
Following that deflating loss, Park Hill won 20 straight to win the Suburban Conference Red Division title for a third straight year before taking the Class 4 District 16 championship for a second straight season. The Trojans recorded 18 shutouts during that streak, which ended in a 3-1 sectional victory against Liberty.
That set up the quarterfinal rematch with the defending state champions, who won last year’s playoff matchup by the same 2-0 scoreline.
“We played a very strong opponent, someone who traditionally had our number, in a pretty even game,” Bell said. “We’re very proud of our girls; they played with so much fire, so much determination and unfortunately they came up a little short.”
Park Hill’s senior class helped push the program to new heights, twice coming up just short of the first trip to the state semifinals since 1993.
Madi Massa, Raena Woodruff, Heath Wojahn, Taylor Buckholz, Haley Buckholz and Catano helped push the Trojans’ win total from nine as freshmen to 20 as sophomores. Last season, the wins decreased, but they ended an eight-year playoff drought with the 2015 district title.
This season started with a 5-3 record and then injuries cropped up but didn’t derail the championship aspirations.
Paulak and Woodruff both missed significant portions of the season, while Walls battled back in just seven months from an offseason torn ACL to lead Park Hill in scoring and assists. Massa and freshman forward Ayana Weissenfluh both rolled ankles during the quarterfinal matchup with St. Teresa’s, and through it all, the Trojans were one goal away from potentially reaching the semifinals.
Instead, a talented group of returners including Walls, Paulak, Emerson, Weissenfluh, Hibbeler and three-time junior all-state defender Jenna Winebrenner should be back to help the Trojans try to breakthrough again.