SMITHVILLE, Mo. — With the immediate shock of allowing a sudden-death goal, Platte County senior Amanda Sullivan begrudgingly took possession of the Class 3 District 16 runner-up plaque.
Penalty kicks had been in sight, giving the Pirates hope of finally ending a lengthy losing streak. Instead, Kearney freshmen Lily Hollis and Caroline Kelly connected for a goal in the 102nd minute to grab a 2-1 overtime victory Wednesday, May 17 at Smithville High School.
The career of Platte County’s four seniors — Sullivan, Calle Boe, Kianna Castro and Kelsey Evans — came to a swift an unforgiving end.
“I think we were taking it minute by minute,” said Sullivan, who left the match for the majority of the second half with a bruised knee before returning for overtime. “There was really no doubt in our mind, but no promise in our mind either. We were going to battle no matter what happened. Whether they were tied with us, were beating us 5-0, we were going to play through that whole game like we were down 1-0.”
Platte County finished at 16-8-1 with the Pirates in a district final for the ninth straight year.
Seeking back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since three straight from 2002-2004, Platte County entered with two losses already to Kearney — a devastating 1-0 double overtime loss early in the season and a 5-2 loss in the final game of the regular season. The Pirates held an early 1-0 lead in the second matchup but couldn’t maintain as the goals piled up.
This time around, Kearney took the initial lead while playing with a stiff southern wind at its back. The Bulldogs took the 1-0 advantage in the 28th minute, but it lasted only six minutes.
In the 34th minute, Platte County junior Hanna Hall dribbled past a pair of defenders on the left side before firing into the far side of the goal for an important goal. Not only did the Pirates level, but they held the wind advantage in the second half.
Platte County had just three shots in the first half with junior Destinee Smith and Sullivan both sending efforts glancing off the frame of goal.
“(The goal) picked us up, gave us some momentum for the second half,” Brantley said.
Fouls piled up against Platte County in a physical second half, and the offensive advantage never materialized.
Instead, freshman goalkeeper Jaylee Wiedmer and central defenders Boe and sophomore Madeline Donnelli kept the Pirates tied with outstanding efforts. Wiedmer, who took over as the full-time starter midway through the season, made a pair of early saves, including diving comfortably to her right to stop the curling right-footed effort of Hollis from 19 yards out in the 51st minute.
Donnelli kept the season alive 12 minutes later, tracking back to clear out a sure goal for Kearney’s Kelly after she navigated around Wiedmer with a seemingly open goal left.
“She covered our keeper,” Brantley said. “That’s all we ask our backs to do when (the keeper) comes out. She definitely helped us out and saved us. I think both of our center backs had an awesome game.”
Wiedmer’s last of six saves came in the 74th minute, diving to stop a well-placed free kick from 30 yards out.
The two overtime periods — 15 minutes each in the postseason — seemed to be playing out mostly uneventful. Smith provided the final chance for Platte County in the 96th minute with a right-footed half volley comfortably saved.
Just six minutes later, Kearney’s winning goal developed out of nowhere.
Kelly slid a through ball over to Hollis with Wiedmer rushing out trying to cut off the angle. Kelly slid the ball underneath her for the winning goal, setting off the Bulldogs’ celebration and initiating the anguish for Platte County’s players and coaches.
“It was kind of overwhelming,” Sullivan said. “I think all of us kind of took that goal into our hands a little bit. Each of us blamed ourselves a little bit for that. It starts with everyone on the field. It’s not any one single person’s fault.”
Platte County came into the season off of a Class 3 District 16 championship run a year ago.
With Sullivan and juniors Brittany Alvarado and Bailey Bologna returning from injuries that kept them out in 2016, optimism was high at a quick rebuild. The Pirates were solid all season but couldn’t manage to find a way past Kearney, which extended its win streak in the ongoing rivalry series to 15 straight dating to 2011.
Kearney re-entered Platte County’s district for the first time since 2010, making the four-team District 16 bracket one of the best in the state. The Pirates ended up taking home their seventh runner-up plaque in nine years with Brantley asking each player to touch the consolation trophy before breaking huddle for the final time this season.
“We always leave our mark. It doesn’t matter which one we get,” she said. “Yes, we’d prefer the first, but we always leave our mark knowing we put in a lot of work and heart in getting to where we are. We had a good season so we have to mark (the plaque) up just so we know, yeah, we were here.
“Of course, we want first place so we’re going to work that much harder next year.”