RIVERSIDE, Mo. — The end came swiftly for Park Hill South.
A cross in the box from the right led to a diving header that bounded off the crossbar. Rockhurst’s Frank Barry calmly tapped in the rebound for the lone goal of a 1-0 victory over the Panthers in a Class 4 quarterfinal Saturday, Nov. 5 at Park Hill District Soccer Complex.
Park Hill South senior goalkeeper Noah Brizendine made four saves but could do nothing on the bang-bang final play.
“We had several chances that we just didn’t put away,” Park Hill South coach Chris Farmer said. “They had a chance, and they put it away.”
Park Hill South’s senior class of an astounding 19 players finished with three straight district titles and back-to-back appearances in the quarterfinals.
Charged with following up on last year’s record-setting run, the Panthers beat Oak Park 4-1 in a sectional matchup to earn a rematch with Rockhurst, one of the state’s predominant powers.
The Hawklets won both playoff meetings 1-0 with this year’s ending perhaps even more difficult than a giveaway early in the second half last season that led to the lone goal.
Rockhurst has now ended Park Hill South’s season in quarterfinals three of the past five years.
In the most recent meeting, Park Hill South (19-4-2) actually produced the majority of the chances.
The Panthers finished with eight shots on goal with the last one the most clear-cut opportunity to break the shutout. In the 74th minute, Brizendine’s long ball found midfielder Turner Hall, who flicked a header into the path of senior forward Tyler Pisoni behind the Rockhurst defense.
Pisoni hit a right-footed shot in a one-on-one situation, but the ball went straight at Rockhurst goalkeeper Nick Moyer, who made the last of his eight saves. Park Hill South wouldn’t get another chance, and overtime never materialized thanks to the Hawklets’ late heroics.
Seven minutes later, Rockhurst forged its efficient counterattack to score the game-winner in front of a packed crowd on the campus of Park Hill South High School.
William Crowe’s cross found midfielder Gianni Catenacci unmarked on the back post, and his header bowled off the turf and then off the crossbar. Brizendine couldn’t locate the rebound before Barry knocked the ball into the net with his first touch.
Park Hill South, which produced 15 clean sheets in 25 matches, then futilely played the final 1:38 in search of a miracle equalizer.
“We really wanted more than what came out of this,” Park Hill South senior defender Noah Anderson said. “It was just one unlucky bounce. They definitely wanted it more on that play, but we had so many chances and we put all we could on the field.
“We’re definitely proud of ourselves. Of course, we felt like we could’ve done better.”
Despite a large amount of unexpected lineup changes, Park Hill South generated early confidence by creating chances through senior forward Ryan DiBernardo.
Dan Geary and Spencer Denney, both seniors, were out of action, forcing Farmer to move senior all-state defender Jacob Wicks into the midfield while adjusting the role of senior defender Chase Beeler and inserting senior Josh Wood into one of the two center back spots alongside senior Colton Smith.
“I couldn’t ask for any more from my brothers,” Anderson said.
DiBernardo took the match’s first shot in the 12th minute, sliding the ball just wide to finish off a piece of combination play with Pisoni.
Moyer made a save on Anderson’s crisp, low shot from distance in the 15th minute, and senior midfielder Adam Frazier opened senior forward Nylo Clarke for a cross in the 23rd minute. DiBernardo couldn’t steer his shot on target to finish up the Panthers’ best run of play in the first half.
DiBernardo, despite picking up a pair of cuts on his leg during an early tackle, also sprang loose late in the first half, beating Moyer to the first touch of a long ball but the flick past the goalkeeper went wide again in the 39th minute.
“I think they had total confidence,” Farmer said. “We went into halftime thinking that we were going to come out on top.”
Rockhurst also enjoyed its spells despite losing out on the majority of possession.
George Marty went just high on a dangerous free kick from 27 yards out in the 46th minute with Park Hill South countering through Clarke moments later. His right left-footed shot went just wide of the post but rolled behind the goal leading the crowd — and the public address announcer who mistakenly said the officials called him offside — to believe he had opened the scoring.
Instead, Rockhurst continued to pressure with Brizendine keeping the shutout intact while going low for a save in the 48th minute.
“I don’t think we went toe-to-toe. I think we took it to them,” Farmer said. “I could not be more proud of these guys. Unfortunately, on the finishing end, it just didn’t go our way.”
Park Hill South’s class of 2015-16 set a record for most wins in a three-year span. This year’s group didn’t end up far behind but came up just short of a third straight 20-win campaign.
The Panthers won No. 19 against Oak Park in a sectional rematch behind two goals for Pisoni, one early in each half. Hall put them up 3-0 in the 56th minute on an assist from senior midfielder Daniel Gunderson before the Northmen brought one back in the 63rd minute.
DiBernardo finished the scoring 6 minutes later on an assist from Clark. DiBernardo and Beeler had the other two assists.