They had thought about it since the beginning of the 2018 season and knew it would not be an easy road but they also knew it was possible.
On May 24, the possible became a very happy actuality for the O’Fallon Christian girls soccer team as the Eagles shut out Orchard Farm 2-0 at home and punched their ticket to the Class 2 Tournament in Kansas City.
Thanks to a pair of timely goals by sophomore forward Eylessa Kellam, the Eagles are making history as the first team in school and program history to advance to the state tournament.
“It was really awesome to be able to do it, especially with such a big crowd to support us,” senior goalkeeper Grace Kinsey said. “To be able to do it on our home field, made it even more special.”
Kellam provided the Eagles with the offensive spark needed against Orchard Farm with a goal nine minutes into the first half off as she headed in a corner kick from Chloe Hall. Early in the second half, Kellam scored her second goal off a pass from Abby King.
Coming through in the biggest game of the season to date was a great feeling for Kellam, who leads the Eagles with a team-high 22 goals.
“It felt very good [to come through],” Kellam said. “I felt like I was able to provide for my teammates by scoring those two goals and accomplish what we’ve been wanting to accomplish.”
The quarterfinal win over Orchard Farm was its second of the season for O’Fallon Christian. The Eagles also pulled off a 5-0 win over Orchard Farm on April 16.
“We knew Orchard Farm was going to be tough and it would be a lot tougher beating them than we did earlier in the season,” O’Fallon Christian coach John Wagner said. “A lot of teams put in that position would have just been happy to get that far but our girls had their eye on a bigger prize all along. So, they just went out and took care of business.”
O’Fallon Christian [16-4] defeated Winfield and St. Charles West to win the Class 2, District 7 championship and then, shutout Borgia 2-0 on May 19 to win sectionals.
Kinsey has been virtually untouchable in goal with 9 shutouts and a 13-4 record heading into the state tournament.
“I give credit to my team for helping out. It’s only my third year playing goal and they really help me out,” Kinsey said. “They are really inspirational and I also have to credit my goalie coach [Zoey Wetzel]. She’s really helped me a lot with developing my skills.”
Wagner credits the Eagles back line defense with allowing Kinsey to be sharp each game.
Senior center backs Rachel Curran, Lauren Ottomeyer, freshman fullback Hailey Frey, and junior fullback Faith Creelman have taken a lot of pressure off Kinsey with strong backline play.
“Grace has done a great job for us,” Wagner said. “But she hasn’t been under a constant barrage of shots because our defenders and midfielders and our team defend so well. So teams only get a couple of chances a game unless it’s a quality, special shot.”
Kinsey said that the key to success for the club has been a strong bond off and on the field, which has allowed them to push through every challenge on the field and improve throughout the season.
“We’re all close to each other and we know what someone is going to do just by a look. It’s really good chemistry on the field,” Kinsey said.
Wagner, who has led the program through its seven years, agreed. “They stick up for each other, they fight for each other and they hang out together,” he said. “… they are all on the same page.”
At 4 p.m. on Wednesday, May 30, the Eagles are looking to make a little more history when they venture to Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City to take on Pleasant Hill in the Class 2 semifinals.
“Our plan is to go in how we’ve been going into [games], not over-analyzing it but just trying to play our game as best we can,” Kellam said. “We know it’s going to be a pretty hard competition but as long as we play our game, we should be able to play well.”
Wagner said he knew before the season that this team was capable of doing special things on the pitch this spring.
“During our preseason workouts, I was telling these girls that, with the roster that we were going to have, they had a chance to make school history and I’ve been saying that before day one,” Wagner said.