The LUHS girls’ soccer team was no stranger to overtime, or ties, during their 2014 campaign. They played in a total of six overtime games, four of which went double overtime, while five ended in tie games.
But the WIAA doesn’t allow games to end in a tie in the postseason, so when the score of Thursday’s first round regional game against Mosinee ended with a scoreless tie after two overtime periods, the game was decided by a penalty kick shootout, which the Thunderbirds won 4-2.
That win advanced them to the regional final Saturday at West Salem. After enduring a 30 minute lightning delay and seeing their goalie Brina Trapp stop two penalty kicks in regulation, they found they were in another scoreless game as time expired.
The score was still tied at goose eggs after one overtime period, but West Salem managed to get one past Trapp 2:16 into the second OT to put an end to the T-Bird’s postseason run.
“I’m so proud of the effort of this team; we’ve come a long way this season. We started the season with only four varsity starters from last year’s team and ended the season outplaying a top seed,” coach Rhonda Maulson said.
Regional round one: Mosinee
After defeating Mosinee in both regular season meetings, the T-Birds weren’t ready for the defensive tenacity that their opponents showed now that it was win or go home time. Even so, Lakeland dominated play, outshooting Mosinee 30-12.
“But we were plagued by the same things that plagued us all season and that was being able to put the ball in the net,” Maulson said. “We had great chances. We had a missed breakaway, we had an open shot in the box late in regulation and missed an open net on a follow up shot...to name a few.”
Maulson said that the longer Mosinee stayed in the game the tougher they got. On one breakaway attempt, Katie Kloes drew a yellow card for unsportsmanlike conduct when she chased the girl down from behind and made a play on the ball.
“The play didn’t warrant a card, Katie was going for the ball and legs got tangled, it wasn’t intentional,” Maulson said.
Once the game entered overtime, the pressure on both teams to score and end the contest intensified.
“I thought or defense took too many risks in the overtime,” Maulson said. “Two of our faster defenders were pushing up to help the attack but Mosinee was quick on the counterattack so we were getting beat on defense and we allowed Mosinee to create great scoring opportunities in the second overtime.”
Maulson said Mosinee really turned up the pressure in the second overtime with two breakaways. Haley Farrell broke up both plays after chasing down the Mosinee attacker.
At the end of the second overtime, both teams selected five players to take penalty kicks at the same goal, alternating each time. Maulson selected five players to take the shots, the first four being Clara Schroeder, Maggie Sasse, Macey Smith and Sierra Ouimette. The fifth didn’t feel confident, so Maulson asked for a volunteer, and Kloes rounded out the shooters.
Schroeder and Mosinee’s first shooter both scored their chip-ins, as did Sasse. Trapp stopped the next shot, and the Mosinee goalie stopped Smith’s. Mosinee and Ouimette scored, then Trapp watched as the next Mosinee shooter shot wide for a miss.
Kloes then atoned for drawing the yellow card earlier by putting a rocket past the Mosinee tender for the win.
“We practice them in practice but I’ve never taken one in a game,” Kloes, a senior, said. “Coach had the top five, but one wasn’t very confident. Coach was looking for confidence, and I was the sixth person, and I said, ‘I might as well try.’”
She added that she was thankful that it was her shot that kept the team’s season alive.
Trapp said she was “very, very happy” to come up with the stop when it counted most.
“We haven’t really practiced it that much,” Trapp said. “So when she made that really easy shot in the air to the right corner, I was really glad I was able to stop it.”
Once the Mosinee player missed, she said she knew that if Kloes could drill the ball home, the game was theirs.
“I was just praying that Katie made it,” Trapp said.
“Our girls really worked hard this game and kept the pressure on Mosinee. Sierra Ouimette really came through defensively for us as the game went on. She came up with some big defensive stops late in the game,” Maulson said. “It was a hard fought game by both teams and that is to be expected come playoff time where each game from here on out needs to be our best effort. As frustrated as the girls get when we miss great scoring opportunities, they keep focused, keep positive and keep fighting until the final whistle. That can carry us through the post season just as it carried us through this game.”
She added that she thought both teams gave their best effort.
“If there is one thing we’ve learned this season it is to play well under pressure,” Maulson said. “This was our fifth overtime game and our third double overtime game this season.”
Regional round two: West Salem
Maulson said the inability to get the ball into the net that had plagued the T-Birds all season reared its ugly head again against the Panthers. The fact that the game went into a second overtime didn’t surprise her, either.
“We dominated time of possession, we were the better conditioned team, and we outshot West Salem 12-6 with two of those being penalty kicks,” Maulson said. “It was our game to win but again, we struggled with the ability to shoot the ball. That was the one advantage they had on us. They hit four crossbars and had two penalty kicks; the scoring chances were in their favor. Of our 12 shots, none were too threatening.”
She said that Trapp wasn’t tested too much, except for the two penalty kicks that game in the last 25 minutes of regulation.
“She came up huge on both of those,” Maulson said. “Both came within the last 25 minutes of regulation. After she saved the first one we counterattacked quickly and had one of our better scoring opportunities but couldn’t get a shot off.
Just under 10 minutes into the second half, the game manager saw a lightning bolt in the distance in the heavily overcast sky. Although the game officials wanted to continue play, the game manager insisted that the WIAA lightning rule be observed. This meant a 30 minute break where both teams had to go into the school building and hope no more lightning was seen.
“We were really pressuring West Salem and they weren’t moving to the ball and you could hear frustration on the field as they were on each other a bit. They were also very tired, so that lightning strike worked to their advantage,” Maulson said. “It would have definitely worked in our favor if play wouldn’t have been suspended.”
After playing to another scoreless tie in the first overtime, it appeared that the game might be headed for another shootout. Then things changed in a matter of 16 seconds.
“We pressured West Salem the first two minutes of the second overtime; they counterattacked and took the ball down the right wing,” Maulson said. “They sent a cross into the box and Tierra Sackett was able to get just enough of her foot on the ball to deflect it up under the crossbar at 2:16 into the second over time.”
As stunned as they were by the sudden reversal of their fortunes, not a single T-Bird hung their heads. In fact, they had to remind the victors to line up for the traditional shaking of hands afterward. Then they formed a line, held hands and walked from their bench across the field to thank their fans one last time.
“Twenty-four games later they still make that walk to thank their fans whether they win or lose. The last walk is always the toughest, but they always win and lose with integrity,” Maulson said. “I’m so proud of the effort of this team. Erin Bolger and Clara Schroeder battled leg and ankle injuries for the second half of the season and those two girls, along with every other player on our team, gave everything they had this game. I know the girls were proud when they walked off the field. They should be, they outplayed the number one seed for 92 minutes.”
Despite the final score, Maulson said the last game of the season was also the best.
“We went into the game not having any background on West Salem other than knowing they were the number one seed. They came out with a lot of speed and attacked quickly for the first five to ten minutes of the game. Once we gained possession we started controlling the ball and moving it well. We kept the pressure on them the rest of the first half and we could sense that they were a bit panicked and they were on their heels. I think we took them by surprise and they were struggling to gain possession. We came out and had an even better second half, and our overtime was just as strong, we just lacked the ability to shoot with power and accuracy,” she said.
She predicted a bright future for the LUHS girls’ soccer team.
“The key to our success next season will be for players to improve their shooting technique as far as power and accuracy. That was the difference between ties versus six wins this season and the difference between winning the regional final versus our season coming to an end. I don’t doubt that these girls will work hard in the off season and come out next spring ready to have an even stronger season. We had great team chemistry and it was a season they should be proud of,” Maulson said.
Jamie Taylor may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.