SMITHVILLE, Mo. — The injuries have piled up in recent weeks for Platte County, and minus the team’s leading scorer for the first time this season, the Pirates’ lengthy winning streak came to a difficult and frustrating end.
Smithville made an early goal stand up in a 1-0 victory Thursday at Smithville High School, ending Platte County’s 15-game winning streak and putting at least some doubt into the Suburban Conference Blue Division title race. The Pirates entered still without junior forward Aleah Dixon and senior co-No. 1 goalkeeper Grace Neece, and junior Riley Smith, who had scored in all but four games this season, sat out a second straight game due to a toe injury.
Without the team’s creative engine in midfield, Platte County started slow and only managed one shot on goal, which came late in the second half.
“We do need that creativity. (Smith) definitely adds to the attack and driving and taking players on and then us working off of that,” Platte County coach Ashlyn Brantley said. “Whenever we have players like that out, we have to find other players that are going to step up, and we were kind of lacking in that area today.”
Platte County (16-2) ended up shut out for just the second time this season, and the scoreless games account for both losses. The first came in the second game of the season against Staley in the Platte County Invitational.
In the first matchup between the two this season, Platte County took advantage of a first half penalty kick from senior Allie Corbin to earn a 1-0 victory. The roles were reversed this time around.
After taking a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute, Smithville still endured a pair of nervy moments to keep the clean sheet, but neither chance resulted in a shot on goal. The Warriors nearly gave up the equalizer two minutes before halftime when sophomore goalkeeper Katelyn Burkhart came way off of her line to try and clear the ball out but didn’t reach the ball first.
Instead, Platte County sophomore forward Sloan Kassen collected for the Pirates and tried a shot from about 30 yards out while under pressure toward the open net. The ball sailed tantalizingly wide, and the 1-0 deficit persisted into the second half. The Pirates wouldn’t have a better chance and couldn’t find the right combination in the attack minus Dixon and Smith and suffering another key injury after halftime.
“It wasn’t our night, but we’ve got work through that even as that goes on,” Brantley said. “We’ve got to learn how to change it during the game. It wasn’t our night, but at least it was only a 1-0 game.”
Platte County senior goalkeeper Avery Krahenbill, now playing the full 80 minutes with Neece out, made a highlight reel save in the 59th minute to keep the Pirates within one goal. She went full stretch to her right to punch away a well-struck shot for the most notable of five saves.
“She definitely gave us a chance,” Brantley said. “She definitely saved us on that one and kept us in the game, but we can’t ask that of her every time.”
Platte County earned its first and only corner kick in the early moments of the second half but continued to struggle in the offensive third after the break. In the 66th minute, Pirates freshman Addison Bradley harmlessly chipped a shot off of senior center back Ryanne Rhude’s throw-in that resulted in Burkhart’s only save.
The final opportunity came in the 74th minute when senior midfielder Kylene Loy beat a pair of defenders outside on the left before cutting into the 18-yard box. However, her left-footed shot sailed high and wide of the near post, much to Loy’s visible frustration.
“It kills me when they get frustrated with themselves, especially on those opportunities,” Brantley said, “because they created that. (Loy) took that player on and another one in behind and she went straight to goal. She has to see she had the skills to do that, to create that opportunity.
Without Smith in the lineup, Bradley shifted into the starting lineup for Platte County in an important role, while senior Abbey Rolofson and sophomore Morgan Stewart split halves at right back in the only other recent shift from the norm. The Pirates were uneven in possession to start the first half and loose in closing down opposing players.
However, neither team managed any sort of offense in the first 15 minutes.
That changed when Smithville sophomore Ava Mensik navigated the end line in the 15th minute to create a dangerous situation. Her cross to the middle found sophomore Sydney Weers, who fired a shot off of a defender and past Krahenbill for the game’s opening goal.
“We were diving in a few times, so we have to go back to our basics on hone in on that stuff we know we shouldn’t do,” Brantley said. “Taking advantage of the very few moments in a game like that, that’s what it comes down to. Whatever chances you get, you’ve got to finish them, and they finished their’s tonight.”
Outside of Burkhart’s miscue, Platte County’s other chances in the first half included a pair of crosses from junior Hannah Stone that didn’t result in shots and a misfired free kick from 36 yards out for senior defender Emma Murray that sailed well wide. The Pirates’ level of difficulty looking for an equalizer increased early in the second half when Stone reaggravated a nagging ankle injury that sent her to the bench for the remainder of the game.
Smith’s toe injury resulted from having her foot stepped on during a recent stretch of six games in seven days that included a run to the North Kansas City Invitational title and culminated with back-to-back Blue Division games against top rivals Kearney and Smithville. The Pirates still control the conference title race at 7-1, while Smithville and Kearney have two conference losses apiece and still play each other one more time.
“We’ve definitely got to be able to adapt because you never know what’s going to happen,” said Brantley, who expects Smith back for Monday’s game. “Players could be in; players could be out. Cards may happen. You never know. We have other players that are scoring this season, so we were hoping to see some of that tonight but it just didn’t go right.”
Platte County 3, Kearney 1
For the second time in a span of five games, the Pirates faced an early deficit that they eventually overcame.
Platte County’s 15-game winning streak included 12 shutouts, but this marked the second time they yielded the opening goal. Kearney took a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute and maintained the advantage until halftime.
Stone scored twice for Platte County, leveling the match early in the second half with her first. The Pirates then took the lead on a bounding throw-in from Rhude that eventually fell to Smith in the box, and she decisively hammered home a one-time, right-footed shot from close range.
Late in the second half, Stone added an insurance goal to wrap up Platte County’s third win over Kearney this season. The Pirates were 1-0 winners in the third-place game of the Platte County Invitational before earning a 2-0 victory a week later.
Platte County had lost 19 straight in the series with Kearney prior to this season, a run dating all the way back to 2011.
Prior to the Kearney game, Platte County opened the week with a 6-0 nonconference win at Benton on Monday. That put the unbeaten streak this season at 14 games and that moved to 15 the next night against the Bulldogs.
On Monday, Platte County hosts Pembroke Hill in nonconference action, and the regular season concludes with Blue Division games at Raytown South and Ruskin and home games vs. Winnetonka and Grandview.