LIBERTY, Mo. — Staked to an early lead, Park Hill goalkeeper Kelbey Emerson made sure the advantage held up.
The Trojans’ reworked defensive line held as tight as possible in a Class 4 sectional against Liberty on Tuesday, May 23, but Emerson came up with 11 saves to hold the shutout, sending them back to the quarterfinals for a third straight year. Two defensive regulars were again out in the opening round of the playoffs, but a standout goalkeeping performance helped maintain the clean sheet.
“I feel pretty good,” Emerson said after the win. “This team, we’re doing great, and I think we’re going to continue.”
Park Hill’s makeshift lineup will be back in the quarterfinals but won’t get the desired
Lee’s Summit North defeated two-time defending state champion St. Teresa’s Academy 4-1 in the other sectional. Park Hill will host the Broncos, who won both meetings between the two this season, on Saturday, May 27 at Park Hill District Soccer Complex in Riverside, Mo.
Park Hill lost to St. Teresa’s in the quarters each of the past two seasons.
“This is a team that has got a lot of the odds stacked against it in terms of injuries,“ Park Hill coach Brandt Bell said. “We’re missing some key players, and it’s just incredible that we have girls stepping up and playing out of position and doing a phenomenal job.”
“The energy is great, and we’re just really proud of what these girls have accomplished this year.”
Park Hill (16-7-2) scored in the sixth minute to provide a bit of a relief.
In a District 16 title game win a week earlier, the Trojans needed a sudden-death overtime goal to prevail past Staley 1-0. Against Liberty, sophomore forward Sarah Hibbeler provided the 1-0 lead in the sixth minute on an assist from junior forward Alison Walls.
With both starting center backs out due to injury, Park Hill didn’t have to worry about allowing a cheap goal and finding themselves in a position to have to fight back.
“Any goal always helps,” Bell said. “The early goal is good in terms of setting the tone and putting us in a position where we know what we’re protecting like we’re defending that one goal lead. And we know they’ve got great attacking players.”
Liberty created plenty of scoring chances but couldn’t solve Emerson.
The backline again included junior Chais Wright, seniors Meg Feeley and Andie Powell and sophomore Morgan Young. Wright and Powell started the season as outside backs, but Powell has shifted inside since Park Hill lost senior all-state defender Jenna Winebrenner (fractured tibia in last matchup with Lee’s Summit North) and sophomore Aleece Noble (right ankle injury vs. Staley).
Despite the setbacks, Park Hill has now won three straight entering the rematch with Lee’s Summit North (20-3) — a 2-1 winner over the Trojans in April and 1-0 two weeks ago late in the regular season. Park Hill will have another shot to earn the first state semifinal appearance since 1993 this weekend, even if the Trojans enter as underdogs.
“We’ve established a tradition and a culture and the girls just continue to maintain that expectation and they continue to maintain that tradition so we’re excited to keep it going,” Bell said.