It was the combination of Ted Williams going deep in his final plate appearance, Joe Carter hitting a World Series-winning home run and Kirk Gibson limping around the bases.
Playing in her final game for Villa Duchesne and wearing heavy bandages around her left leg, senior Taryn Tkachuk scored the game-winning goal in overtime to win the Midwest Field Hockey Tournament championship in walk-off fashion.
Or rather, hobble-off fashion.
The backhand shot that sailed into the top corner of the net was Tkachuk’s 32nd goal of the season, more than double the total of any other player in the metro area, and her eighth game-winning goal.
Tkachuk is the Post-Dispatch All-Metro field hockey player of the year for the third consecutive season.
The overtime goal seemed like the logical conclusion to a decorated high school career, but a few days earlier, the chances of a storybook ending seemed far off in a distant land.
During the state quarterfinal victory against Summit, Tkachuk seriously injured a leg muscle attempting to maneuver around a defender. She exited the field on crutches and in tears.
“So much stress was going through my mind after that happened," Tkachuk said. "I thought, ‘This can’t be happening right now.' "
Tkachuk had a quick turnaround to recover for the state semifinal, and Villa Duchesne coach Kate Graft began preparing for the likelihood her star forward would miss the remainder of the playoffs.
“When I saw her, I was certainly a bit concerned (for the team) but sadder for her,” Graft said. “I hated to think that she might not be able to finish out the season. She wanted this so bad and had been working so hard since last season.”
That 2019 season was a historically productive one for Tkachuk. Her 43 goals were more than any area player in the last 20 years. She won All-Metro player of the year for the second time.
But that campaign thudded to a halt with a 1-0 loss to MICDS in the Midwest Tournament Championship game — the only time Tkachuk was on the losing end of a shutout against a team from Missouri in her four years.
With record-breaking statistics, postseason accolades and a college signing with NCAA Division I powerhouse Virginia assured, the temptation to downshift and coast into her senior season never crossed her mind.
She pinpointed areas of weakness in her game and sought out instructors to address them, including a “quick feet” specialist and a personal trainer named “Crash.”
“Some days were long, but I just wanted to be the best I could be,” Tkachuk said. “Especially after last year, I wanted to do everything I could to make sure I didn’t have any regrets.”
COVID-19 restrictions temporarily deferred the start of the 2020 season, and Tkachuk and her teammates endured more than six weeks of practice without any games on the schedule.
“It was a long couple months not knowing if we were going to play, but we kept our positivity in thinking that there might be a possibility,” Tkachuk said.
And when the 2020 season finally started, Tkachuk could not be stopped.
She scored four goals against Visitation in the season-opener and five more the following game against Summit. She totaled 25 goals in her first eight games, which included six hat tricks, and Villa Duchesne rolled to an undefeated regular season.
“Our entire team came out with a bang. We were ready,” Tkachuk said.
With convincing wins over Parkway West and Summit, the Saints sprinted into the Midwest Tournament semifinals. A hobbled Tkachuk hoped to join them.
“I wanted to play so bad and I knew I couldn’t let my team down,” Tkachuk said. “It was a close call.”
With a massive wrap around her left leg, a less explosive Tkachuk played almost every minute of both the semifinal and championship games.
In the semifinal, she roofed a backhand shot for the final Villa goal in a 4-1 win over Cor Jesu. It was a precursor to the top-shelf, reverse shot she launched in overtime to win the Midwest Tournament championship against John Burroughs two days later.
“I couldn’t move the way I wanted, and I definitely felt slower and a little held back, but I tried to push through it and end (my career) with a win,” Tkachuk said.
She led the area in scoring all four years and totaled a mind-boggling 135 goals and 91 assists in her career, but it was her quest to improve in all aspects of the game that made her the complete player she is.
“Her overall game awareness, passing and defensive skills have improved, and she spent countless hours in the offseason improving her overhead throws and reverse shot,” Graft said.
And just like the dramatic dingers by Ted Williams, Joe Carter and Kirk Gibson, the legacy of Taryn Tkachuk and her reverse shot in overtime will be remembered for years to come.
“Taryn has certainly left her mark on Villa field hockey and St. Louis field hockey as well,” Graft said.
ALL-METRO FIELD HOCKEY FIRST TEAM
2020 All-Metro field hockey first team
F: Taryn Tkachuk, senior, Villa Duchesne
Leading the area in point production for the fourth successive season, Tkachuk scored 32 goals, more than doubling the output of any other player. She scored at least a hat trick in half of her games and scored eight game-winning goals, including the championship-clinching goal in a 1-0 overtime victory against John Burroughs. The three-time All-Metro player of the year will continue playing at the University of Virginia.
F: Mia Simpson, senior, Lafayette
A mesmerizing stick handler and passer, Simpson scored 15 goals, added nine assists and was named player of the year in the Suburban Yellow Conference. She finished second in the area with 39 points and saved her best performances for fellow Rockwood schools, scoring four times against Marquette and a hat trick against Summit. She will continue her playing career at Lindenwood University.
F: Gigi Edwards, sophomore, Villa Duchesne
Using her explosive speed in the open field and excellent vision in traffic, Edwards scored 10 goals and led the area with 17 assists. Her chemistry with senior Taryn Tkachuk at the top of the field created a flurry of goals in the opening minutes of games, propelling Villa Duchesne to an undefeated season and the Midwest Tournament championship.
M: Kate Oliver, junior, MICDS
A lover of mathematics, Oliver expertly visualized the angles from both the midfield and forward positions, equating to eight goals and four assists. She had a playoff hat trick against Clayton, scored twice against both Cor Jesu and Nerinx Hall and used her exceptional quickness and stick skills to help MICDS sum up its season in the Midwest Tournament semifinals. She recently committed to continue her playing career at Harvard University.
M: Grace Pottebaum, junior, John Burroughs
A two-way player who excelled end line to end line, Pottebaum dished out four assists and scored four goals, including the game-winner in a 3-2 quarterfinal victory against Nerinx Hall. Her fearlessness as a flyer on defensive corners helped the Bombers hold Villa Duchesne without a goal in 15 corner opportunities in John Burroughs’ first championship game appearance in 10 seasons. She has committed to play at the University of North Carolina.
M: Suzy Keefer, senior, Villa Duchesne
The quarterback of a Saints’ team that captured its third championship in four seasons, Keefer scored 11 goals and added 15 assists, joining Tkachuk and Edwards in the top five in area scoring. Her outstanding defensive skill and field vision set up numerous goals, including the overtime game-winner in the Midwest Tournament championship game to clinch the third championship in four seasons for Villa Duchesne.
M: Caroline Stutte, senior, Cor Jesu
An outstanding passer, defender and field general, Stutte scored eight goals, added three assists and provided the on-field leadership to help Cor Jesu reach the Midwest Tournament semifinals. She scored all three goals in a 3-2 win over Visitation, added two more against Ursuline and fueled the Chargers’ playoff run with a goal against Whitfield. She will continue her playing career at the University of California-Davis.
D: Lily Baker, senior, MICDS
Often tasked with shutting down the opponent’s top scoring threat, Baker has thrived as both a defender and a midfielder. She scored four goals, including the game-winners against both Lafayette and Clayton. Her prowess on both offensive and defensive corners helped MICDS reach the Midwest Tournament semifinals for the fourth consecutive season. She will continue her playing career at Columbia University in New York City.
D: Kate Smith, senior, John Burroughs
The Metro League player of the year, Smith anchored a defense that allowed just 12 goals in 10 games and held the high-powered Villa Duchesne offense scoreless through four quarters of the Midwest Tournament championship game. Her skill and composure in the center of the Bombers’ defense provided the backbone to an 8-2 overall record and the first title game appearance since 2010.
D: Garner Hostnik, junior, Villa Duchesne
As the center defender for a Saints team that allowed only three goals all season, Hostnik also contributed at the offensive end, scoring three goals and adding three assists. Often her superior positioning and defensive skill prevented teams from even approaching a scoring opportunity, as Villa Duchesne yielded only 32 total shots on cage in 14 games.
G: Anna Duncan, senior, John Burroughs
Against the top competition in the area, Duncan excelled, making 18 of 21 saves in two victories against MICDS and 24 of 29 in two meetings with Villa Duchesne. Over the past two seasons, Duncan posted a 21-4 record with 17 shutouts against area teams, losing only to Villa Duchesne during that stretch.
ALL-METRO FIELD HOCKEY SECOND TEAM
2020 All-Metro field hockey second team
F: Mia Scheulen, freshman, Westminster
Bursting onto the high school field hockey scene, Scheulen finished sixth in metro area scoring with nine goals and 11 assists, including two-goal performances against the normally impenetrable defenses of John Burroughs and Lafayette.
F: Teresa Schmidt, senior, Cor Jesu
A track and field star, Schmidt vaulted Cor Jesu into the Midwest Tournament semifinals with the game-winning goal in a 1-0 quarterfinal triumph over Lafayette. Her 24 points placed eighth in the area and included hat tricks against both Nerinx Hall and Whitfield and a four-assist performance against Summit.
F: Rylie Morris, senior, Summit
A creative offensive player and skilled deflector of shots on cage, Morris tied for fourth in the area with 11 goals. She scored multiple goals in four games, including a four-goal explosion in the second half of a 4-2 victory over Nerinx Hall.
F: Anna Lochhead, junior, MICDS
The leading scorer for the Rams, Lochhead scored eight goals and added six assists, collecting a hat trick in a 3-0 season-opening win against St. Joseph’s. She scored at least one point in eight of nine games while helping the Rams reach the Midwest Tournament semifinals.
M: Olivia Bell, senior, Nerinx Hall
Despite being the focal point of opposing defenses, Bell used her outstanding quickness and creativity to score nine goals and add four assists, figuring in on 65 percent of the Markers’ goals. She will continue her playing career at Syracuse University.
M: Elayna Malak, senior, Lafayette
A gifted passer with a rocket for a shot, Malak quarterbacked the explosive Lafayette offense to an average of 3.5 goals per game. The senior co-captain dished out 13 assists, placing her third in the area in that category, and added five goals. She will be playing collegiately at Amherst College.
M: Georgia Leary, sophomore, Villa Duchesne
An outstanding defensive midfielder and unselfish distributor of the ball, Leary tallied two goals and added eight assists for the Saints, including the game-winning assist in overtime of the Midwest Championship game.
D: Ellie MacArthur, senior, Cor Jesu
With her exceptional footwork and long reach, MacArthur stymied the best offensive players in the area, anchoring a Chargers’ defense that shut out seven opponents. A senior co-captain, MacArthur will continue her playing career at Amherst College.
D: Brecken Calcari, junior, MICDS
One of the fastest defenders in the area, Calcari often caught up to goal scorers who thought they were in the clear. She helped solidify an MICDS defense that yielded only nine goals in nine games while contributing a goal and three assists for the state semifinalist Rams.
D: Milam Anthon, senior, Villa Duchesne
Providing the insertion for Villa Duchesne offensive corners, Anthon provided a steady presence all over the field. She dished out eight assists and scored twice while playing stellar defense on a Saints team that surrendered only three goals during the season.
G: Caroline Kirby, senior, Marquette
Kirby allowed only three goals in her final eight games and saved 49 of 52 shots during that span, including a stellar 17-save performance in a 1-0 overtime playoff loss to St. Joseph’s. She earned six shutouts and had a .868 save percentage during the season.
ALL-METRO FIELD HOCKEY THIRD TEAM
2020 All-Metro field hockey third team
F: Ellie Strahorn, junior, John Burroughs
Strahorn led the Bombers with 10 goals and three game-winners, including a dramatic, last-second goal to propel Burroughs to a 3-2 victory over rival MICDS in the season opener.
F: Lene Rossouw, sophomore, Lafayette
Rossouw scored 14 goals and added eight assists to place fifth in the metro area in scoring with 36 points. She scored at least one goal in 10 of the Lancers’ 13 games.
F: Ruby Nadin, sophomore, Clayton
Nadin used her speed and skill to score four goals, including game-winners against Ursuline and Lindbergh, powering the Greyhounds to an 8-3 overall record.
F: Riley King, senior, John Burroughs
The Bombers’ second-leading scorer doled out four assists and scored five goals. That included the game-winner in a state semifinal to propel John Burroughs to its first title game appearance in 10 seasons.
M: Marissa Liu, junior, Parkway West
Liu scored 10 goals and added three assists to lead the Longhorns’ offensive attack. She scored the game-winner in West’s 1-0 win over Clayton and put four in the cage against Parkway Central.
M: Shaya Dry, junior, Whitfield
Dry controlled the midfield area with creativity and quickness. She scored two goals and added two assists in a playoff win over St. Dominic and netted a game-winning tally against Parkway South.
M: Jenna Bernstein, senior, MICDS
With savvy stick work and field awareness, Bernstein turned defense to offense for many scoring plays, especially in the playoffs when she tallied a goal and three assists. She will be playing collegiately at Washington and Lee University.
D: Esther Pottebaum, sophomore, John Burroughs
Pottebaum was an integral part of an excellent Bombers defensive unit that yielded only 12 goals in 10 games and also found the scoring touch with a goal in her first two playoff games.
D: Tess Reed, sophomore, Visitation
The leading scorer for the Vivettes, Reed tallied four goals, including game-winners against Westminster and Nerinx Hall, and added two assists while excelling as a defender.
D: Arden Duffy, senior, Villa Duchesne
A steady defender for the state champion Saints, Duffy exhibited great composure under duress as Villa earned 11 shutouts and surrendered just three goals all season. She will play collegiately at Depauw University.
G: Elise Adrian, senior, Cor Jesu
Surrendering just 12 goals in 12 games, Adrian saved 86 percent of the shots she faced and produced seven shutouts, including a nine-save masterpiece against Lafayette to propel the Chargers into the state semifinals.
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