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Mathis, Francis Howell Central clip Francis Howell 2-1 to advance to state

Francis Howell Central players Jenna Mathis [left] and Mackenzie Jones celebrate after the Spartans knocked off rival Francis Howell in the Class 4 quarterfinals on Saturday, May 25 at Francis Howell Central High. [Matthew Schott photo]

Jenna Mathis and her Francis Howell Central teammates came into the Class 4 playoffs determined to not go out in the quarterfinal round for the third time in four seasons.

On Saturday, May 25, the Spartans finally broke down that barrier thanks in large part to Mathis’ efforts.

Mathis scored two goals in the second half to go up by one against the Vikings. Junior goalie Caitlyn Brown and the Spartans defense made that one-goal lead hold firm for a 2-1 victory in the Class 4 quarterfinal.

Howell Central [15-8-1] now moves into the Class Class 4 Final Four for the second time since 2015. The Spartans face Liberty at 2 p.m. on Friday, May 31 at Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City in a semifinal matchup.

“Hats off to Francis Howell, an unbelievable team, and Coach Demling [for all he] has done and the Francis Howell program, they do a great job,” Francis Howell Central coach Eddie Mulholland said. “Our kids played a good first half, down 1-o, and we responded the second half. We played good soccer, trusted the process, and Jenna Mathis buried two goals.”

Francis Howell got on the scoreboard thanks to a superb play by Olivia Bunton. Late in the first half, Bunton scored on a 48-yard free kick that found the back of the goal for a 1-0 Vikings lead.

“It was unbelievable,” Mulholland said. “Our girls played well in the first half, but they capitalized on their opportunity.”

Francis Howell Central Midfielder Mackenzie Jones battles Francis Howell midfielder Payton Amlong for a ball during the Class 4 quarterfinal game on Saturday, May 25. [Matthew Schott photo]

Howell Central did not let Bunton’s first-half goal keep them down.

In the second half, the Spartans picked up the pace increased offensive pressure on the ball in the Vikings’ defensive zone, which paid off when Mathis scored on a shot just outside of the goal box with 25 minutes left in the second half, tieing the game at 1-1.

“It was a handball, and then they had six girls in the wall, but it was right outside the box, so I just shot it and took a rip and hoped it was in,” Mathis said. “It felt really good, obviously …”

In the final 10 minutes, Mathis got her second goal of the day and the game-winner off a throw-in with just over 9 minutes to go.

“One of our girls crossed a throw-in to the other side [of the field], pretty wide, and I was just there. I turned the ball and saw a spot and just kind of took a shot to the left and it just went [in],” Mathis said. “I felt pretty lucky on that one.”

Brown combined with Spartans defenders Mackenzie Daiber, Mariah Johnson and Molly Krispin in keeping the Vikings offense quiet in the closing moments of the contest.

“Our girls played well and we put ourselves in a great position to win the game,” Mulholland said. “The game never got away from us.”

Now the Spartans will try to make history in Kansas City this weekend and improve upon their 2015 second place finish in the Class 4 Final Four. To do that, Mathis said the team cannot look past Liberty on Friday.

“To be honest, we play it game by game, and I’m just happy to have two more games with these people,” Mathis said.






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