Written by: Noah Bonner
While other programs have thrived in the move to the Suburban Conference, the Smithville Warriors boys soccer team has struggled by their standards.
However, that did not mean all hope was lost. Led by two early goals from Nathaniel Saunders, senior, and Josh Grandstaff, junior, via penalty kick, the Warriors (4-12) upset the Platte County Pirates (9-8) to sweep the regular season series in their annual Pink Ribbon Game.
Despite a 3-12 record coming into the match, Smithville players felt confident. One of their only three wins to that point was against the Pirates, a 1-0 road victory coming from a Luke Termoshuizen, senior, goal.
¨It always feels pretty good to beat Platte County,¨ said Saunders, who emphasized that records always get thrown out the window when these two teams play.
The difference in the game was the contrasting styles of play between the two teams. Platte County dominated the time of possession, keeping it in their offensive zone for the majority of the game, but took their time on the attack and was conservative in their shot selections. Even on a fastbreak chance that had only the goalie to beat, they passed it out to get an even better look, which proved to be no luck following an errant pass.
On the other hand, the Warriors were aggressive, often trying to start odd-man attacks and keep the pressure on in the transition game. A simple shot on net from by Saunders opened up the scoring, and Grandstaff got the penalty shot opportunity after Wesley Pryor was tripped up following an odd-man rush toward the net. They proved that any shot on net is better than no shot at all.
¨Early goals are great for boosting team morale and adrenaline, but simultaneously mentally knock back the competition,¨ said Termoshuizen.
Because of this, Smithville was able to control the pace of play and dictate how the game played. By the time the Pirates began to show urgency on offense, one could tell that they were uncomfortable going away from their gameplan, often turning the ball over when playing up-tempo.
There’s also something to be said for Smithville´s defense. A shutout was impressive considering how dangerous Platte County, is on offense. Although the Pirates did spend a large part of the game in Smithville territory, they had troubles maintaining the pressure and creating scoring opportunities.
Counting their first game in Platte City, the Pirates failed to score a single goal in either of the two matches against Smithville this year.
¨We pressured heavily and made sure to keep the ball away from key players and keep them from shooting,¨ said Termoshuizen.
The Warriors also got a big boost from freshman goalkeeper Caden Egbert, who took over for Grant Corkill, senior, in the second half. Egbert had two crucial saves in his first few minutes in net, which turned out to be Platte County´s best scoring chances of the night.
¨Caden is really good at coming off his line when he needs to and he’s on top of his game,” said Saunders. ¨Those two saves really helped us keep that good lead so we could relax a little more.¨
Smithville now has something to build on moving forward. They’ve won two of their past three matches as they begin the final stretch of the season.
Despite a losing season to this point, the team focuses on building a solid foundation for next year and beyond. All three freshmen on Smithville´s varsity roster, Egbert, midfielder Reagan Dunn and defensemen Kyle Corkill, got significant playing time and made a difference in the game, leaving the Warriors something to build on moving forward.