Winning twice in Joplin, the Crosspoint Christian School soccer Lady Cougars captured the Missouri Christian School Athletic Association Division I state championship.
Crosspoint (13-2) defeated fourth-seeded Maryville, Ill., Christian School Friday in the semifinals, 5-2.
In the championship, the Lady Cougars defeated Tower Grove Christian, 2-1.
“Every girl on our team has worked hard this year and it’s probably our best year in girls soccer in the history of the school,” Crosspoint Head Coach Leslie Blackburn said. “We couldn’t be more proud of the work put forth and the girls overcoming all injuries to win a state championship. It will definitely be a memorable year for all involved.”
Crosspoint received four postseason awards as well. Goalkeeper Sara Blackburn and forwards Emily Bratch and Emmi Windes were named to the MCSAA all-state first team. Forward Lydia Young was named to the second team.
Blackburn, Windes and Young are juniors and Bratch is a sophomore.
Windes completed her return from injury to score both goals as the Lady Cougars claimed the championship Saturday.
“While we appeared nervous Friday, we’re more at ease today,” Coach Blackburn said. “We knew our opponent and knew they were going to bring a very competitive match. We play Tower Grove every year and last year we knocked them out of the semifinal game in Joplin going up early 2-0 and ending 2-1. Windes was good and going to go a full 80 today unless we were in a very comfortable lead.”
Early in the game, Blackburn credited Trinity Smith for her defense and Taylor Nevez for a free kick shot put on target.
Crosspoint took the lead in the 30th minute when Bratch assisted Windes for the opening marker.
It was 1-0 at the half with Tower Grove having no offensive chances.
“Credit has to go to defense players Taylor Nevez, Madison Niermeyer, Ashley Blackburn and Maggie Pierce, along with our midfielders Trinity Smith, Haylee Winkler and Paige Sullentrup. They were stopping everything Tower Grove was throwing at them. They got deep in our end a couple of times, but we were able to keep them at bay.”
At the half, Coach Blackburn said it was vital for Crosspoint to get a second goal.
“We discussed at the half that we needed another goal and were going to push for it before setting up to be more defensive in our play,” she said. “It’s the championship. You do what you have to, push through the pain, dig deep and leave it on the field. We worked all year for this moment.”
Crosspoint got the second goal in the 58th minute as Windes converted a free kick from the corner of the 18-yard box to make it 2-0.
Tower Grove, coached by Harris-Stowe State University Coach Scott Vorwald, pushed at the Crosspoint defense in the final minutes, moving players around to put pressure on. It paid off as Erin Jackson scored with two minutes to play, cutting it to 2-1.
“We put the ball deep into the Tower Grove end on the kickoff and stayed on our end to defend the last 90 seconds, which seemed like eternity,” Blackburn said. “Tower Grove tried a couple times to penetrate but we were able to turn it over and clear our end of the field. The referee did add some injury time but Tower Grove was unable to tie the game. Vorwald told us after the match, ‘We wanted to give you guys a good game.’ They did just that, it was a tough match and we had to work for it.”
While Crosspoint knew all about its championship opponent, the Lady Cougars didn’t know much about Maryville, Ill., Christian.
Crosspoint managed to prevail, 5-2, with Bratch and Sullentrup each scoring twice and Young adding a goal.
“We haven’t played Maryville this year as we weren’t able to schedule them in, but knew they were a big school compared to Crosspoint,” Coach Blackburn said. “We were expecting a good match from them from what we have seen with other opponents, so we did some shifting in midfield to come out strong as we wanted to get on the board quick, move in subs, rest some legs and be ready for the championship game Saturday.”
That also meant giving Windes as much rest as possible as she was coming back from two weeks without playing due to injury.
Crosspoint took the lead in the 16th minute when Young scored by redirecting a Bratch corner kick.
The only other goal of the half was scored by Sullentrup from the top of the 18-yard box in the 26th minute.
Maryville had concentrated its defense on Bratch, but she was able to shake free and score in the 45th minute.
“Emily is fast and it was just a matter of time before she was able to use her speed to get around being marked and get us on the board again,” said Blackburn.
Maryville scored on a shot into the upper corner in the 50th minute, cutting it to 3-1.
In the 57th minute, Sullentrup converted a rebound of a Windes shot to make it 4-1.
In the 70th minute, Bratch was able to break away for her second goal.
Maryville scored a final goal which deflected off a Crosspoint player late in the game, but the Lady Cougars held on for the win.
“We give credit to Maryville as they knew they had a tough competitor in the Cougars and they came at us and never gave up,” said Blackburn. “They are going to be a team to watch in the future for sure. Again, our goal was to get ahead, keep Windes from reinjury and get key players to Saturday with good legs and that’s what we did.”