Kayla Huber sent the ball into the back of the net with less than 10 minutes left in regulation Thursday night, and her goal had D.C. Everest on the verge of celebrating a comeback for the ages.
There was just one problem.
Stevens Point Area Senior High keeper Sarah Peplinski made a number of key late saves, however, and in the process foiled the Evergreens’ bid to send shock waves through the Wisconsin Valley Conference.
Peplinski, who signed an NCAA Division I letter-of-intent to attend San Jose State on a soccer scholarship a day earlier, finished with nine saves, including several potential tying shots, to preserve a 2-1 win for the Panthers in an early season showdown of WVC title contenders at Stiehm Stadium.
“She made some big-time saves,” D.C. Everest coach Lucas Kollross said. “I was pleased after those two (SPASH) goals because I thought we put some strong scoring opportunities together at the end. One went off the post and she (Peplinski) had two amazing saves.
“We definitely had the momentum at the end, but we ran out of time.”
With the clock running out on Everest, Huber volleyed home a cross from Mackenzie Corallo with 9 minutes, 43 seconds left in regulation, enabling the Evergreens to finally break through against Peplinski.
Peplinski’s point-blank save with 2 minutes left in regulation was the signature moment in a virtuoso performance by the entire Panthers defense, spearheaded by freshman sweeper Justice Menge.
“I told you she (Peplinski) is the real deal. That shot that she saved (at the end of regulation) was a rocket right at her,” SPASH coach Don Peel said. “They’re probably our biggest competition, so jumping out and taking one on the road is nice, but we still have 10 games.”
The Panthers seized control going into the wind when Casey Jahn found the back of the net off a pass from Autumn Shurbert-Hetzel at 24:00 of the first half.
Jen Hoerter pushed the SPASH lead to 2-0 when she converted a pass from Abby Bohanski at 65:54.
“Ultimately, they’re a darn good team. Give them credit, they transition quick and finish well,” Kollross said.
First half: 1. SPASH, Casey Jahn (Autumn Shurbert-Hetzel), 24:00.
Second half: 2. SPASH, Jen Hoerter (Abby Bohanski), 65:54; 3. DCE, Kayla Huber (Mackenzie Corallo), 70:17.
Saves: SPASH (Sarah Peplinski) 9, D.C. Everest (Steph Meuret) 1.
Records: D.C. Everest 1-4, 1-1 Valley; SPASH 3-0-1, 2-0 Valley.