Platte County sat just 14 minutes from ending the first half level, ready to switch sides and take advantage of a gusting southerly wind.
Instead, Staley finally broke through on a free kick then added two more before the halftime whistle to change the complexion of a Platte Invitational pool play matchup Monday, March 21 at Pirate Stadium. The Pirates’ fortunes did reverse while attacking with the wind, and they scored twice but couldn’t come up with an equalizer in a 3-2 loss.
Despite a lineup minus three starters out with knee injuries, Platte County coach Ashlyn Brantley wasn’t comfortable with assessing comeback prospects at 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0.
“I don’t think that way,” she said. “We want to score. I don’t think in that ideal. We don’t want any in.”
Goals from senior midfielder Brooke Zenner and junior midfielder Kianna Castro put Platte County (1-1) in position to forge a tie. The Pirates won their opener in the tournament, but Staley lost to St. Pius X on Tuesday, March 22. Tiebreakers put Platte County into the championship match scheduled for Thursday, March 24.
Finding a way to equalize vs. Staley would’ve upped Platte County’s chances of playing in the six-team tournament’s title game.
Down 3-0 but with the gusting wind at their back, the Pirates tallied their opener in the 48th minute. Staley goalkeeper Mercedes Daniels saw her errant clearance end up at the feet of Zenner. With the goal mostly vacated, Zenner fired a shot from about 27 yards out to the far post with the ball easily finding the goal to officially change the momentum.
“I knew I had the ability to curve it in, so I just turned, made the shot and hoped it went in,” Zenner said.
Daniels kept the Staley advantage at 3-1 with a sprawling save to her right in the 57th minute, denying a goal to Platte County junior Katana Audas on a heavily hit right-footed shot from inside the box.
The Pirates’ best chances continued to come from attacking the left side of Staley’s defense, and in the 69th minute, Zenner set up the second goal from the right hand side. She sent in a right-footed cross from the end line, finding sophomore forward Destinee Smith in the box.
Staley deflected Smith’s shot, but Castro tapped in from close range with the defender chasing Zenner keeping the play onside. The best chance at an equalizer came moments later on Hannah Hall’s cross from a similar spot as Zenner’s on the previous attack.
Platte County goalkeeper Kaylyn Hathaway didn’t face a shot in the second half and finished with two saves. Early on, Staley (1-0) did little to threaten her a goal despite a few errant shot attempts and an abundance of corner kicks.
The breakthrough finally came in the 26th minute when senior defender Megan Klein lined up a free kick from the right side of the field, well outside the 18-yard box. Her blistered shot went across the face of goal, and Hathaway could only deflect it without changing its path enough to keep it out of the net.
Staley controlled possession throughout the first half with Platte County unable to generate a shot in the opening 40 minutes. Daniels’ only real action came while effortlessly collecting a Zenner free kick.
“They were in our end the majority of the time,” Brantley said. “There’s only so many shots and so many corners that they are going to be able to take that we’re going to be able to fight off if we continue to let them have them.”
The path back became even more difficult in a span of less than a minute.
First, Liz Mann weaved through defenders from the left side before beating Hathaway with a shot to the far post. Less than a minute later, Mann added her second from a similar spot, this time shooting low to beat Hathaway to her near post.
The goals came in the 30th and 31st minute.
“Those three goals were a quick reality check that it’s not going to be that easy to just hold them up,” Zenner said. “We were going to have to use our heads and figure out how to stop them and then how to come back from it.”
Platte County kept the deficit at 3-0 and then went to work, finally easing the pressure on a reconfigured backline.
Calle Boe, a junior, moved into a center back role with senior Haley Valentine also shifted inside from her outside back position last year. That’s the biggest change to the Pirates’ lineup while they deal with season-ending injuries to sophomore Bailey Bologna and junior defender Amanda Sullivan, last year’s Suburban Conference Blue Division defensive player of the year.
The rest of the lineup remains in familiar roles, although playing time has increased for some with Brittany Alvarado also out with a meniscus injury.
Platte County 3, St. Pius X 1
The Pirates built a three-goal lead and held on for a win in their tournament opener Saturday, March 19 at Pirate Stadium.
Smith scored twice in the second half, and Zenner finished with two assists. Hall accounted for the first half goal and also supplied the assist on Smith’s second marker.
Lee’s Summit invitational
St. Teresa’s Academy 1, Park Hill 0
The Trojans started their season with a loss in an unlikely early season rematch Monday, March 21 at Lee’s Summit North High School.
St. Teresa’s, the defending Class 4 State champion, made a goal from Elexa Pierson stand up to move on to the semifinals of the season-opening tournament. The Stars beat Park Hill 2-0 last year in a Class 4 state quarterfinal, ending the Trojans season.
Park Hill sophomore goalkeeper Kelbey Emerson made four saves.
The Trojans were scheduled to play Liberty in the consolation semifinals on Tuesday, March 22 but the result was no available at The Citizen’s deadline.
Lee’s Summit 5, Park Hill South 0
The Panthers also moved into the consolation side of the bracket with a loss Monday, March 21 at Lee’s Summit High School.
Lee’s Summit, returning Class 4 semifinalists from a year ago, also moved towards the championship game. Park Hill South was slated to play Kearney in the consolation semifinals on Tuesday, March 22 but the result was not available at The Citizen’s deadline.