As the St. Teresa’s Academy Stars walked off the field Saturday, they turned back toward the bleachers and apathetically waved to their families, classmates and fans, thanking them for their support. In the background, an opponent’s celebration full of cheers and chants was impossible to ignore.
This was the final scene for the top-ranked high school team in the country.
St. Joseph’s Academy handed St. Teresa’s Academy its first loss of the season — 3-2 in double overtime — and won the Missouri Class 3 girls soccer state championship at Blue Springs South.
The Stars, 22-1, settled for second place for the second straight season after they jumped out to a two-goal lead 18 seconds into the second half Saturday.
“We’re devastated,” senior captain Christina DeZeeuw said. “We were ranked first in the country all season. We had zero losses. We won big tournaments this year. ... We really thought it was meant for us.”
A team motivated by its loss in the state final last season turned to a player who didn’t even appear in that match.
St. Teresa’s Academy freshman Tess Rellihan scored 46 seconds before halftime and broke a scoreless tie. And 18 seconds after the break, she added another goal. Both goals were set up by beautiful assists from Alyssa Seitzer.
“I started to get a feel for how they were playing me,” Rellihan said. “... Once I figured that out, that helped me a lot.”
The rout, it appeared, was on.
Until St. Joseph’s Academy perfected the free kick. Granted a direct kick in the 61st minute, St. Joseph’s asked defender Anna Martin to take the shot. From 30 yards out, she lofted the ball just under the crossbar and just over the outstretched hands of Stars keeper Alexis Batliner.
Only 3 minutes later, from the other side of the field, Martin replicated the feat in a nearly identical manner. Martin had tied the game on her first two goals of the season.
The Kaley Nieters’ goal won it in double OT for St. Joseph’s. Nieters lobbed a shot over a drawn-out Batliner 6 minutes into a period previously dominated by the Stars.
The Stars had their chances. After a set up from Dorian Bailey, Rellihan took a strike in the first OT that would have completed the hat trick. But St. Joseph’s keeper Kelsey Ponder leaped and stopped the shot.
The Stars outshot St. Joseph’s 9-4 for the match. Ponder made seven saves.
“Upset. Angry. Disappointed,” St. Teresa's Academy coach Jeremy McElduff said. “The girls had a great season. Unfortunately it ended with a loss. It’s just disappointing.
“But the big thing I told the girls is don’t let this game define the whole season. ... It’s a big part of it, but they had a great season despite this.”