Francis Howell Central midfielder Caitlyn Eddy was filled with emotions after watching her team fall to perennial power St. Theresa’s in the Class 4 championship game at Blue Springs South High on June 6.
Eddy and her teammates did not want to have their magical season end on such a sour note, but the run to the title game was a special one as the Spartans made their first girls soccer Final Four appearance in the school’s 19-year history.
“It was so hard to see it end that way after all the work we had put into the season, but if I had it to do all over again I would gladly want another year with this group,” Eddy said.
Howell Central fell behind 3-0 in the first half against the Stars, but even with that deficit the Spartans stayed poised and confident.
“After we gave up that first goal we kind of settled in and at halftime we were committed to playing the best we could in small sections of the second half so it wouldn’t get away from us,” Howell Central coach Derek Phillips said.
Freshman midfielder Bailey Beeler gave Central a chance with a goal in the 45th minute to cut the lead to 3-1. But a minute later, Alyssa Seitzer responded for St. Theresa’s with a goal and the Stars, who beat St. Joseph’s in the semifinals, added two more goals to claim their fifth state championship.
“After that goal that made it 4-1 – they scored like three goals in about a 12-minute span and they are such a good and experienced team that there wasn’t much we could do about it,” Philips said.
A day earlier (June 5), things went decidedly better for Howell Central as the Spartans slipped past Lee’s Summit 2-1 to earn their first shot at the Class 4 title match.
Eddy, who is bound for the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, scored the game-winning goal for Central in the 25th minute of play on an awkward, less than perfect kick.
Central grabbed the lead in the fifth minute on a hard Emma Farley strike from the center of the box. That got Howell Central riding high early, but Lees Summit’s Sarah Burnham got the equalizer in the 21st minute to tie it at 1-1.
That’s when Howell Central keeper Sydney Chalcraft once again showed her mettle as turned in several big saves in the second half to keep Lee’s Summit out of the net.
“They were getting some hard shots off corner kicks and Sydney did a really nice job of keeping them out of the goal,” Phillips said.
According to Eddy, the team’s 18-0 start gave them reason to believe this could be a magical season for the Spartans.
“Our goals are always win districts and try to build from there and of course getting state is the ultimate dream but it was the 18-0 start that really got us to think maybe it could be a special year,” Eddy said.”
Although, Howell Central ended school just as the team was starting its playoff run, Phillips noted that the school support for the program was tremendous all season.
“Our kids, during the school year, gave us tremendous support and were really behind the girls all through the season,” Phillips said. “This run to state just shows that if they come together and put in the hard work, special seasons like this can happen.”
Eddy, midfielder Lauren Nosal, midfielder Sam Patton, and defender Rachel Schreyer are the only seniors to graduate from the 2015 club.
Farley, midfielder Abbie Rademacher and Chalcraft will be back next year, and with them in the mix, the Spartans should be a force once again.
“I think with us just losing those four seniors and the people we have coming back, although those are big losses, we should be pretty good next year,” Phillips said. “Now that the younger players have been through this and see what it takes to make a run to state, I think they will buy into the program and work hard to have similar success.”
For Eddy the best part of the state run was being able to have it happen in her senior season.
“I don’t think I could have asked for a better experience for my senior year from coaches, my teammates and the school support,” Eddy said. “It was absolutely amazing.”