RIVERSIDE, Mo. — Despite a halftime advantage, Park Hill’s coaching staff urged the players for more energy and urgency in a rivalry game matchup.
The Trojans responded with better play that didn’t necessarily show up in the 2-0 scoreline against Park Hill South on Monday, April 2 at Park Hill District Soccer Complex. The win ran Park Hill’s current streak to 13 straight and improved a commanding position in the Suburban Conference Red Division standings, but single goals from Bella Catano in the first half and Sam Paulak in the second half left the Trojans knowing they could have produced more.
“The goal of the whole season is to prepare for the postseason,” Park Hill coach Brandt Bell said. “That doesn’t mean there aren’t big moments along the way that are bigger or more significant. I mean every game matters, but any time you get to play your district rival under the lights on the field that we share, you want to play well and show well.
“It’s good for us to come out and get a win — maybe not play to the best we can but show that we are a very capable team.”
The expectations have continued to increase for Park Hill (18-3, 6-0 in Red Division after the win), likely set for a spot in the Missouri State High School Soccer Coaches Association poll set for release Thursday.
Yet, the second of three and potentially four rivalry matchups this season with Park Hill South ended closer than the first. Catano, a fluid senior attacking midfielder, provided an early breakthrough in the 12th minute, taking a failed clearance and working around two defenders at the top of the box before beating the goalkeeper to the back post for a goal that gave the Trojans a 1-0 lead.
Park Hill pounced on a couple of mistakes from the Panthers in the final 20-plus minutes of the first half leading to breakaways for sophomore forward Alison Walls. Both times, Park Hill South defender Nicole Gardner tracked back to knock the ball loose and keep the score level.
At halftime, Park Hill held a dominant edge in chances but held a tenuous 1-0 lead.
“The first 16 minutes or so were pretty good, and then we kind of fell downhill,” Catano said. “We didn’t connect passes as well after that, but in the second half, we stepped it up. I think we’re all motivated. Something just happens at times, and we have to get past (those lulls).”
Park Hill South ended up only creating limited chances, and Park Hill sophomore goalkeeper Kelbey Emerson made two saves to keep the Trojans’ 12th clean sheet during the 13-game winning streak. In the first half, junior all-state defender Jenna Winebrenner twice made crushing but clean tackles to dispossess Panthers sophomore forward Ryanne Serrone-Brown and stifle any hints of a counterattack.
The solid back line again provided plenty of time and possession to increase the lead.
Park Hill’s prowess on set pieces allowed the Trojans to double their lead in the 49th minute. Catano and Paulak stood over a free kick from 19 yards out off of a Park Hill South handball. Catano dummied over the ball before Paulak fired a right-footed shot heavy into the low corner for the goal.
Catano, Paulak, Winebrenner and freshmen Ayana Weissenfluh and Sara Hibbeler often share set-piece opportunities, creating multiple looks for opponents to deal with in dangerous situations.
“I’ve got probably six different girls I can put on any sort of set-piece opportunity and feel confident they can create something,” Bell said.
The pressure slowly increased against Park Hill South, but senior goalkeeper Haley Mills made the majority of her nine saves in the second half to keep the scoreline at 2-0.
The Trojans created chances in a variety of ways in the final half hour, including a through ball from Paulak to Catano that ended with a hard left-footed shot Mills parried away in the 53rd minute. Monents later, Walls navigated the end line on the left side with some nifty moves before sending a short, low cross to Weissenfluh, who fired a shot into the defense deflected out for a corner.
Paulak provided the final best chance with a rifled right-footed shot from 25 yards out that Mills again punched away.
Park Hill South, which dropped to 8-10 overall and 5-2 in Red Division play, attempted to counterattack and pressure the Trojans into turnovers. The move mostly didn’t work with Winebrenner, Chais Wright, Madi Massa and Taylor Buckholz staying calm in the defensive third and starting the attack from the back.
“We’re more comfortable with you possessing it toward your half line than in our penalty area,” Park Hill South coach Joe Toigo said. “Tactically, we’re trying to stay compact and make them go sideways and backwards instead of forwards. But it’s a lot to do with their players. They have very composed players on the ball. They find the easy outlets.
“Early in the game, we were giving that to them way too easily. We took some players to task; they stepped up their game and made it a little harder on them to play through the middle on us.”
Park Hill won the first meeting between the two 3-0 in the third game of the season, and they meet for the third time Tuesday, May 10. They could also match up in the state playoffs, just as they did a year ago in a Class 4 sectional matchup the Trojans won before bowing out in the quarterfinals.
Both teams were scheduled to play Tuesday, May 3 in Red Division play — Park Hill South vs. Ruskin and Park Hill at Truman — but the results were not available at The Citizen’s deadline.
Park Hill 6, Truman 0
The Trojans scored five goals in the second half Thursday, April 28 at Park Hill District Soccer Complex.
For the second time this season, Catano and Winebrenner combined a set-piece routine that ended with Winebrenner scoring the opener in the first half. The scoring ended up spread between six players after the second half flurry, which included another set-piece goal.
Walls scored on buildup from Wright and Winebrenner to double the lead early in the second half.
The third came on a set piece that saw Wright provide a touch, allowing Paulak to beat the goalkeeper to the near post with a shot. Catano provided a second assist on a through ball to Buckholz that she poked home, and Meg Feeley scored her first goal of the season on a 26-yard shot over the goalkeeper to make it 5-0.
Kylie Aulgur tapped in the final goal off of a cross that slipped through the Truman defense.
Park Hill 10, St. Joseph Central 0
In a game moved up to an earlier time due to approaching severe weather, the Trojans made quick work of a Red Division foe Tuesday, April 26.
Catano scored a hat trick, and Alison Walls added a pair of Park Hill to run the win streak at that time to 11 straight games. Hibbeler, Weissenfluh, Buckholz, Paulak and Winebrenner added a goal each in a diverse offensive effort at Park Hill District Soccer Complex in Riverside, Mo.
Emerson recorded the shutout.
Park Hill South 7, St. Joseph Central 2
The Panthers built a big early lead and pulled away late, despite a brief lapse in play late in the first half Thursday, April 28 in St. Joseph, Mo.
Mayleigh Oder recorded a hat trick in the first 26 minutes, helping Park Hill South to a 4-0 advantage. She scored the opener off of a Kate Eischens corner kick in the 11th minute, and following Meghan Jones goal on an assist from Lia Fricke in the 19th minute, Oder scored again in the 22nd and 26th minutes.
In the 22nd minute, Flannery Koelliker’s restart off of a foul beat the offside trap, and Oder finished with a flick over the goalkeeper, who came off her line. Madi Sanders sent Oder through for her final goal of the first half on a breakaway in the 26th minute.
Central scored twice in a span of five minutes to close within 4-2.
Park Hill South goalkeeper Brooke Montgomery made six saves and kept the Indians from drawing closer. Oder recorded assists on Kallen Mazeitis’ goal in the 59th minute and Jones’ second in the 62nd. Marquese Oder completed the scoring in the 66th minute, forcing a turnover and beating the keeper with a strong shot.
Staley 1, Park Hill South 0
The lone goal came early in the second half Friday, April 29 off of a giveaway.
Liz Mann made a turnover on a Park Hill South throw-in count, burying a shot in adverse conditions at North Kansas City District Activities Complex in Kansas City, Mo. The game featured a consistently strong crosswind and rain for much of the first half.