This time around, Platte County at least ended up with time to overcome a deficit.
The Pirates appeared ready to fight back in a critical rematch with Kearney on Wednesday, April 27 at Pirate Stadium. Destinee Smith’s goal late in the first half cut the Bulldogs’ lead in half, but the momentum didn’t stick.
Kearney scored three times in the second half on the way to a 5-1 victory, all but sealing the Suburban Conference Blue Division title. The Bulldogs’ third goal on a free kick specifically seemed to deflate the Pirates, who generated very little offense in the final half hour.
“Which is frustrating,” Platte County coach Ashlyn Brantley said, “because again — 2-1, 1-1, whatever — you’re still in the game. We’ve got to go in with the mentality that it doesn’t matter how many goals down we’ve got to play 100 percent for the full 80 minutes and more if we need to.”
In the first meeting between the two teams, Kearney scored late to steal a 1-0 victory and take control of the conference race. Now, the Bulldogs only need two more Blue Division wins out of games against Grandview, Raytown South and Winnetonka to seal the title outright.
Platte County’s best hope to grab at least a share came in the second matchup with Kearney.
An early turnover led to a goal in the eighth minute, and the chance seemed to start slipping away in the 14th minute on a breakaway. Platte County sophomore goalkeeper Faith Burtchell took down an onrushing Kearney attacker in the box. She avoided a red card, but Ashley Coonfield converted the ensuing penalty kick with Burtchell only able to tip the high shot into the net.
Platte County then sprang to life, and a pass from senior attacking midfielder Brooke Zenner sprung Smith for the Pirates’ first clear chance. Kearney goalkeeper Alexandra Alter beat away a hard-hit shot in the 19th minute, but just 3 minutes later, Platte County’s physical sophomore forward provided the breakthrough.
A long ball from Zenner put Smith on a similar path, and this time she beat the goalkeeper with Zenner back near midfield celebrating even before her teammate took the shot.
“When we get into that attack, it can’t be just those two that are working in it,” Brantley said. “We need more support and help, especially when we are playing these tougher teams. We’ve got to get more members in that attack.
“But those two, yes, they’ve been working well together and we want to keep creating those opportunities.”
The momentum didn’t hold, and Platte County’s offense dried up from there. Shortly after halftime, Coonfield hit a well-struck shot on a free kick from 21 yards out to beat Burtchell for a second time. The ball found the top left corner of the goal, leaving the Pirates sophomore with no chance despite her well-attempted dive.
Kearney added a fourth and fifth in the final 16 minutes to pull away.
Burtchell ended up with only two saves with most of the Bulldogs’ chances on clear breakaways. The slow start resulting in a disappointing defeat mirrored at least two other losses for the Pirates this season.
“They were good shots,” Brantley said. “I’m not going to take away from those. We have to deny those opportunities. The free kicks? We can’t do much about those straight off of that, but we did have unnecessary fouls — a lot of them — that caused those situations. Some of those we couldn’t have asked more from her because of the situations we put her in.”
Platte County 3, Winnetonka 0
The Pirates scored twice in the first half Monday, April 2 at Pirate Stadium — enough offense to hold on for a Blue Division win.
Platte County (10-6) received a goal each from Zenner and Smith to complete the season sweep of the Griffins. Coming off the loss to Kearney, the Pirates improved to 5-2 in league play with three regular season games left.
The first of those was scheduled for Tuesday, May 3 at Raytown South, but the result was not available at The Citizen’s deadline. Platte County’s final two games will be at home against Grandview (Thursday, May 5) and Belton (Tuesday, May 9).