After 110 minutes of scoreless soccer between Elmira Notre Dame and Unatego on Tuesday afternoon at Brewer Memorial Stadium, a berth in the Section 4 Class C girls soccer final came down to a shootout.
Defending Class C champion Unatego earned the right to play on, converting four of its five penalty kicks to advance to the title game against top-seeded Lansing on Friday or Saturday at a time and site to be announced. Notre Dame, which made its first two penalty kicks before missing its final two, finished with a 13-1-4 record.
The contest technically is considered a 0-0 tie, though the third-seeded Spartans (15-2-1) certainly left feeling like winners despite second-seeded Notre Dame having a big advantage in possession time. The Crusaders had 19 corner kicks and outshot the Spartans, 11-3.
“To start this year we didn’t expect to be here,” said Unatego coach Sue Herodes, whose team lost 10 players from last year’s team. “It’s just a testament to what we’re capable of doing. These girls fought hard. I didn’t sub very much today and we had some injured players who were on the field. The only thing that got us through this game is our guts.”
Last year was similarly frustrating for Notre Dame, with the Crusaders falling 1-0 to the Spartans in the sectional final.
“We had stretches where I thought we were really dominating play, we were able to keep the ball in their end of the field,” Notre Dame coach Steve Weber said of Tuesday’s contest. “We were moving it well, we were creating corner kick after corner kick, but their keeper came up with a couple of really nice saves.
“Yeah, you hate for a game to come down to something like this, but it has to end at some point. I don’t know of a situation that’s any better they’ve been able to come up with.”
Torri Halaquist, Emily Slawson, Cassidy Newman and Mary Rommer converted in the shootout for Unatego. Megan Herrick and Emma Booth kept Notre Dame even through two rounds. Rommer’s kick clinched the shootout win in the fifth round.
Unatego had its best shot at a goal midway through the second 10-minute overtime when Maria Scott hit the side netting.
With a minute left in the period, Spartans goalie Megan Faulkner beat Notre Dame’s Emma Booth to a high cross with an empty net behind her. Faulkner finished with 10 saves.
The standard 10-minute overtime periods were followed by two five-minute sudden-death periods.
“Defensively Mary Rommer, who’s a ninth-grader, who marked Emma (Booth), their leading scorer, she’s a workhorse,” Herodes said. “She did phenomenal today. She did not give her looks. She got the ball and started pressing on us, but Mary did not give her shots on goal.”
Said Weber: “Their defense really compacts well. They got back well behind the ball. We never really had any breakaway situations except for the one that was a semi-breakaway situation and their keeper came out and made a play on the first touch. Other than that we really struggled trying to create any real good looks at the goal. As soon as we were on the ball near the 18, they stopped and pressured us really well.”