To hear Lee’s Summit West junior Kassidy Newsom tell it, she was just standing at the right place at the right time.
Newsom found herself in the 18-yard box, squarely in front of the Lee’s Summit goal during the closing minutes of the first half in the 10th annual Melanie Grace Kickin’ Against Cancer Game. It was the perfect spot to take well-placed ball from midfielder Taylor Reid and knock it into the net.
Newsom’s goal would be all the Titans would need to claim a 1-0 victory over their crosstown rivals and win the 10th edition of the Tigers’ annual fund-raiser to fight cancer May 4 at Bud Hertzog Stadium.
“It was honestly all Taylor,” Newsom said of the goal she made with 2 minutes, 30 seconds left in the first half. “She took it all the way down, beat her defender and all I had to do was tap it.”
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Newsom’s shot ended a cautious first half for the Titans, who were more concerned with possession that scoring as they began the match going into the wind. At that, they still had two shots bang off the crossbar in the first 40 minutes of a match played mostly at midfield.
“The first half I thought we did a really good job with the wind in our face being able to possess,” West coach Shaun Owens said. “Our goal in the first half was just to kind of wait, and in the second half we’d take our chances.”
Lee’s Summit had its chances, too. The Tigers thought they had an equalizer three minutes into the second half when Kayla Deaver hit a shot that at first went high off the hands of West goalkeeper Tori Hunter. Hunter regained control of the ball dangerously close to being over the line.
The Tigers had other opportunities, but coach Dave Wiebenga could tell they were running low on fuel. The night before, the Tigers played 100 minutes in a penalty kick loss at Lee’s Summit North.
“It’s tough to go 100 minutes with North and come back and play 80 minutes against West,” Wiebenga said. “I don’t want to make excuses, but there is something to be said about freshness. And they were definitely probably the fresher team tonight.”
The loss was only the second for Lee’s Summit in the 10 years of the Melanie Grace game, which honors the memory of Melanie Grace Lindmark, a Lee’s Summit girl who passed away at 6 years old in 2005 after battling a rare form of cancer. Her fight against the disease inspired Lee’s Summit’s girls soccer players to start the event in 2007.
Spectators could bid on a silent auction during the game and take part in a 50/50 raffle or purchase T-shirts to help raise money. The T-shirts are purple, as were the Tigers’ jerseys, because that was Melanie Grace’s favorite color.
Each year the team picks someone from the Lee’s Summit area who is fighting cancer to receive the money raised by the event. This year’s recipients are Osahon Ogbevoen, a 12 year-old sixth grader at Highland Park Elementary who diagnosed with histiocytic sarcoma last October, and the family of Noah Coram, a senior at Summit Christian Academy who passed away in March after being diagnosed with NUT midline carcinoma last December. The two families were honored during a halftime ceremony.
“To be able to play in this is such an honor,” Newsom said. “It’s more than playing for yourself. We’ve got other people that are going through things that we want to play for, too.”
That, Wiebenga said, helps to put the Melanie Grace game in perspective, even after another tough loss against a crosstown rival.
“It doesn’t take anything away from the evening,” Wiebenga said. “The evening is still what it’s more about.”