The final score was Joplin 4, Glendale 2. Not that the final score mattered much.
In an emotional night at Glendale High School, the Falcons soccer team returned to the field for the first time since their friend and teammate Grayson Lambert, along with his father, brother, sister and a family friend, were killed Saturday in an airplane crash near Willard.
The 16-year-old Lambert was a junior defenseman for Glendale.
“Everything we’ve felt for the last few days is coming out now,” Glendale coach Jeff Rogers said after the match. “This is probably the most emotion (the players) have shown since the tragedy.
Despite the difficulty of the day, Rogers said it was good for the Falcons to get on the field in remembrance of Lambert.
Reminders of Lambert were everywhere.
A picture of Lambert was on the back of the program. Nic Bauer, a senior team captain, wore Lambert’s No. 9 jersey instead of his usual No. 21.
The team plans to have a different member wear Lambert’s jersey in each match this season. The jersey has Lambert’s name on the back — the only Glendale jersey with that distinction.
“I’m just honored to be the first do it,” Bauer said. “We all spent a lot of time together this weekend, and I think it really brought us together. It’s just really tough for everyone. It hurts because it’s one of those things that we can’t do anything about.”
Instead of announcing starting lineups, the teams walked together silently to midfield.
The only name that came over the loudspeaker was Lambert’s — Bauer stepped forward when Lambert’s name was announced.
The teams then observed a moment of silence before returning to their benches.
“I looked out in the stands, and I’ve never seen that many people here for a soccer match,” Bauer said. “The support we have here is just incredible. We have a great school. It’s almost like something tragic happened, but something good came out of it.”
Many Glendale players began to tear up as the match neared its end. Rogers gathered his team for a quiet postgame talk, and several Falcons shared long hugs before making their way out of Lowe Stadium.
“We’re going to try and find a way to walk away from soccer for a little bit,” Rogers said. “I think it just kind of hit them all tonight. It hit us as coaches tonight.”
The game itself was an entertaining one.
Joplin broke on top when Will Krolman scored in the 24th minute.
The Eagles made it 2-0 in the 58th minute on a Ryan Estus goal on a header off a throw in from Krolman, before Glendale answered with two goals in the next 62 seconds.
The first Falcon goal came from Austin Meyers, who scored off a cross from Bauer. Yamil Ocampo evened things less than a minute later, scoring off a cross from one of Lambert’s best friends on the team, Izzy Chappell.
But Joplin had the final say in things, getting a goal from Joe Rice in the 74th minute. Rice put home a rebound in the box after a Joplin corner kick.
Estus put the game away with a breakaway goal in the 75th minute as Glendale was trying to press forward.
Joplin coach Ed Miller, while happy with the win, understood the circumstances with which it came.
“You can only imagine what they’re going through,” Miller said. “Our condolences go out to the coaches, to the players, to the families. It’s a tragedy. When something like that happens, it puts the game in perspective.”