Taking a page from Union’s handbook, the Kearney Lady Bulldogs defeated the Lady ’Cats in the MSHSAA Class 3 girls soccer third-place game Saturday, 3-1.
“We’re proud of our kids and what they did to get here to be in this position to compete for a chance at winning the state title,” Union Head Coach Matt Fennessey said. “It’s been an amazing ride. I’m really happy with the way these guys performed all the way through the season in getting us to this point. Today, we just didn’t have what we needed to win. We had a slow start and couldn’t overcome that really.”
Playing at a powerless Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City, the Lady Bulldogs (23-2) scored twice in the first five minutes to take a commanding lead over Union (21-3).
“They came out and they were aggressive from the start. They went up 2-0 in the first 10 minutes and that’s what sealed the deal. It just felt like they had all of the breaks going their way in the first half. Our girls fought hard and really didn’t catch any breaks in the first half. In the second half, they fought back and came out with a different attitude. Really, I thought we dominated a lot more of the play but we were unable to get free and get another one into the back of the net. They fought for all 80 minutes.
Sophomore Caroline Kelly, Kearney’s leading scorer, gave Kearney the lead with an unassisted goal 1:41 into the game.
Senior Trinety Williams made it 2-0 at the 4:14 mark with an assist by senior Elyse Kelly.
Kearney, which lost to Rockwood Summit in Friday’s semifinal game, 2-0, bullied Union from the kickoff, trying to put its mark onto the game. With two goals early, Union needed something quickly to gain some momentum back.
The Lady ’Cats got it as freshman Emily Gaebe made a run through the defense and buried a shot into the Kearney net 13:32 into the first half. The goal cut it to 2-1 and gave Union some momentum and the chance to catch up.
“I was talking with Coach (Brady) Weinhold and saying it might be a 5-4 game as quick as things were going,” Fennessey said. “The defenses started getting a little more stingy and figuring out what the opponent was trying to do. I think that really made a big difference in the game and the goals slowing down.”
However, from there, the defenses settled down. While both teams generated scoring chances for the rest of the game, Kearney got the only goal. Union was called for a foul just outside the box and was ruled to have played a handball in the box when the free kick went off the wall.
That set up Caroline Kelly at the spot. At the 27:43 mark, she converted to give Kearney a 3-1 lead.
That’s how it stood at the half.
For its physical play, Kearney was rewarded with three yellow cards, including a soft red card for junior Abigail Logan. Caroline Kelly also drew a yellow. Union was given two yellow cards to senior Kennedy Reeser and freshman Emma Cloud. Union was whistled for 12 fouls while Kearney drew nine.
Kearney also dodged a potential problem in the closing minutes when one of its defenders played the ball with an elbow in the corner of the box after it bounced up and hit her while she was dribbling. No infraction was called.
Playing in her final Union game, senior goalkeeper Lexi Garlock made four saves in goal. She made three saves in the first half and one in the second. Kearney freshman Mayson Behney didn’t have any saves.
Union’s lone shot on goal was by Gaebe. Senior Georgie Bray, junior Ella Keltner and junior Gigi Gore also had shots.
“We tried to get Gigi and Maddie Helling more involved,” Fennessey said. “At the end, we tried to get Emma Cloud a little more involved. We moved Kaitlyn Hobson a little higher than normal. At the end, it just wasn’t working for us today. We just couldn’t get that goal. It wasn’t from a lack of effort. It just wasn’t our day.”
Kearney attempted 12 shots for the game with seven on goal.
Caroline Kelly made four of those and Williams posted three before coming out of the game with an injury late in the first half. Senior Mackenzie Billings recorded two shots. Junior Abigail Logan, freshman Caysi Brown and junior Saige Williams each had one shot.
Williams’ three shots and two of the Caroline Kelly shots were on target. Billings and Williams also forced saves.
Kearney had seven of the eight shots in the first half and outshot Union in the second half, 5-3.
Kearney took the only two corner kicks of the first half and Union had the only two of the second half.
When heavy storms blew through the Kansas City early Saturday morning, the state championship venue along the bank of the Blue River was affected.
Swope Soccer Village received superficial damage. The major damage came from the wind, which destroyed a number of event tents at the stadium and toppled at least one concession cart. Like thousands of others in the Kansas City area, Swope Soccer Village was without power.
Also, a number of trees and large tree limbs blocked streets in the Swope Park area.
MSHSAA postponed the start of the third-place game for an hour, but when 11 a.m. came around, officials decided to play without electricity.
Starters were announced on a bullhorn and the crowd sang the national anthem.
“I don’t think it was that big of a deal,” Fennessey said. “We were prepared for it.”
Power was restored near the end of halftime and everything resumed at normal.
Junior Lily Schneiders scored an unassisted goal 14:11 into the game to lift Rockwood Summit (19-2-3) to a 1-0 win over Incarnate Word Academy (22-7) in the Class 3 championship game.
Park Hill defeated Lee’s Summit West in an all-Kansas City Class 4 championship contest. Lee’s Summit West had knocked off defending champion in the semifinals on penalty kicks, 3-2. Park Hill beat Jackson in one overtime, 1-0.
Eureka beat Jackson, 4-0, for third place.
Classes 1 and 2 were decided Wednesday and Thursday.
In Class 2, O’Fallon Christian got a goal by Eylessa Kellam at the 69:14 mark to win the state title match over Cape Notre Dame, 1-0.
O’Fallon Christian knocked out St. Francis Borgia Regional in the sectional game.
Pleasant Hill defeated St. Pius X (Kansas City) for third place, 2-0.
In the Class 1 title game, St. Vincent (Perryville) won 2-0 over Principia for the title. In the third-place game, Lone Jack beat Fatima, 4-1.