Platte County junior right back Annabel Beeman hits a clearance against Grain Valley on Thursday at Pirate Stadium. ROSS MARTIN/PC Preps Extra

Platte County’s win streak hits 3 then ends in shutout loss to Grain Valley

After dominant stretch of wins to start conference play, Pirates early-season issues reemerge in critical White Division matchup.

Platte County expected the step back up in competition, but unfortunately, a few bad habits reemerged Thursday night.

Platte County junior goalkeeper Finley Kaser goes to scoop up a loose ball against Grain Valley on Thursday at Pirate Stadium.

Grain Valley scored once on either side of halftime and came away with a 2-0 victory at Pirate Stadium that will likely be key in determining the eventual Suburban Conference White Division champion. The Eagles dominated the offensive chances, and while Platte County junior goalkeeper Finley Kaser made seven saves to help offer a route back into the game, the Pirates managed just five shots — three from junior midfielder Lily Kytasaari — and rarely possessed the ball in a dangerous area of the attacking third.

Platte County (3-5) entered on a three-game conference winning streak and continues to show ability to play with top teams but hasn’t come away with a result in the most difficult tests so far this season.

“We made some changes, had a better second half and came out with a little more intensity,” Platte County coach Ashyln Brantley said. “I think we started out slow that caused some of the problems in the first half. We were expecting to play against a good team, but unfortunately, we had to talk about some of the mistakes we were making early on in the season that came back to bite us today.”

In windy conditions, Grain Valley broke through in the 11th minute after a virtual stalemate to that point. The Eagles turned a seemingly indescript free kick opportunity from more than 40 yards out into a wide open chance at the back post for sophomore Avery Stumpenhaus, who used a shot across the face of goal to beat an exposed Kaser.

Platte County junior midfielder Lily Kytasaari looks for space to dribble against Grain Valley on Thursday at Pirate Stadium.

Set pieces continued to cause trouble for Platte County with Grain Valley junior Kyra Osabuohien sending a header off a corner kick wide in the 16th minute. The Eagles then doubled their lead in the 44th minute, shortly out of halftime, on a free kick crossed into the box to find sophomore Radleigh Childers for the second goal.

Platte County encountered similar issues of allowing the opposition the majority of possession and shots in 3-1 losses to St. Pius X and Raymore-Peculiar in the season-opening home Pirate Invitational and Smithville’s 3-1 nonconference win.

“When we have the ball, we’ve got to open up and provide multiple options, not those situations where we’re running away and hoping for the ball and the best outcome when we send it up,” Brantley said. “I think we lacked that in this game, but it showed well in other recent games, but today, we weren’t giving the multiple options that we needed.”

Platte County’s offense struggled to find consistent linkups in attack, and the first clear-cut shot came from senior midfielder Marissa Orellana late in the second — an effort that sailed high. The best chance at a goal to cut the lead in half came with about 18 minutes left in regulation on a mistake from Grain Valley that nearly allowed Pirates sophomore midfielder Saige Dickens a tap-in opportunity only for goalkeeper Alayna Maybell to smother the loose ball and draw a foul.

Platte County sophomore midfielder Saige Dickens collides with the Grain Valley goalkeeper in Thursday’s game at Pirate Stadium.

In the closing minutes, Kytasaari sent in multiple shots plus a dangerous cross that traversed the face of goal but didn’t find a teammate.

“We’re not getting in behind, and we’re not getting those shots on goal,” Brantley said. “Against good teams like this, those are already limited, and if we’re not creating them, we’re sitting back; we’re playing defense a lot, and that catches up to us”

Platte County has scored in all but two games this year but not more than one in any of the five losses. Out of 21 total goals for the Pirates came in eight games, 18 came in the dominant wins over Raytown (7-0), William Chrisman (8-1) and Belton (3-0).

Against Grain Valley, Kytasaari — a third-year starter up front in various roles — continued to work as a high-energy engine, but her effort to often backtrack earn the ball often hurts her ability to consistently be a part of the attack. Platte County also continues to use Dickens, Orellana and freshman Amela Dzilic as the supporting midfielders for junior forward Rylee Burris at the top of the formation. The Pirates have senior Addison Sloan contributing off the bench on the wings, while sophomore Carissa Bacon continues to earn increased playing time in the search to find preferred rotations in rebuilding a roster that lost a key central defender and the top two scorers from last year’s team.

Platte County sophomore midfielder Carissa Bacon looks to defend against Grain Valley on Thursday at Pirate Stadium.

In addition, Platte County continues to utilize versatile junior transfer Brooklynne Jenni in a defensive midfield role while seeing if junior returning starter Giada Cucchiara can come back this season from offseason surgery for a torn ACL. The Pirates have Jenni plus freshman Mila Cucchiara patching together in front of the preferred defensive backline with senior Alex Beeman and junior Madison Palmer in the middle and junior Annabel Beeman on the right and senior Kaelyn Bellach on the left. All four have starting experience and have played well attempting to provide cover for Kaser but could benefit from increased possession and a more consistent attack, especially one that plays to Kytasaari’s strengths.

“Accountability is one of the things we’ve been talking about,” Brantley said. “We need others to win the ball so she can be an option in the attack. Or if she wins the ball, who else can she play it to as an option so it’s less solo? Lily is one of those players who we can count on to do that, but we don’t want to rely on her to do that too much.”

Platte County 3, Belton 0

Platte County senior midfielder Marissa Orellana battles for position on a corner kick against Grain Valley on Thursday at Pirate Stadium.

In the first of two conference matchups between Pirates, Platte County dominated the majority but didn’t have any goals until the final 16 minutes Tuesday in Belton.

The breakthrough for Platte County through Kytasaari. In the 64th minute, she worked the ball toward the middle of the field and split three Belton defenders to free up Burris with a through ball that put her in a one-on-one situation. She beat the onrushing goalkeeper with a left-footed shot that curled around and pinged off the inside of the left post for a 1-0 lead.

Kytasaari doubled the advantage on a speculative but well-struck effort off a throw-in just four minutes later. She collected on the left, outside the box, dribbled to her right and fired a shot from about 21 yards out and at a challenging angle. The ball curled into the far right side of the net to put Belton down 2-0 and create a challenging road back.

Orellana finished off the scoring in the 78th minute with her second goal of the season. Sloan played a ball back to her near the corner of the 18-yard box on the right, and she sent in a left-footed ball that might have been intended as a cross only to softly loop into the far side netting for Platte County’s third highlight-reel goal of the game.

Belton did not have a shot on goal, and Kaser did not have to make a save to record Platte County’s third cleansheet of the season, although one of those came in a loss to Kearney after that Pirate Invitational matchup went to a penalty shootout after a goal-less regulation.

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