Through 80 minutes of scoreless regulation, 20 minutes of goal-less overtimes, and a shootout that seemed like it would never end, the confidence of the Somerville High School girls soccer team never waivered.
And when senior Brooke Benner converted the Pioneers’ eighth attempt of the shootout and junior keeper Lindsay Werner stoned Wall’s ensuing shot, the pandemonium that ensued on the turf at Brooks Field showed that confidence extended to the student body as well.
Julie Johnstonbaugh and Emily Lockwood each hit twice, Benner turned in the winner and Werner posted three saves during the shootout Thursday, as top-seeded Somerville won its first sectional title in eight years, 0-0, 5-4 in the third sudden-death phase of the penalty shootout in the final of the NJSIAA Central Group III Tournament.
“We weren’t going to be denied. It just wasn’t going to happen,” said Somerville coach Michael Kydonieus, whose team will face South Group III champ Toms River South at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Toms River High School North. “We’ve been playing for a championship all year long and there was just no way it wasn’t going to happen. I felt confident the whole time, even when it went into PKs. I knew this team was going to come through in the end.”
For Somerville, which had over 200 fired-up students in attendance, along with about 100 other supporters, the electricity in the stands did little to power the offense, as the normally potent Pioneers attack was held without a goal, despite generating 11 shots on goal, hitting two posts and having a penalty kick stopped during the second overtime.
Still, there never seemed to be a doubt in Somerville’s mind how this one would end.
“I can’t really comprehend what just happened,” said Werner, after navigating her way out from among the large mob of Somerville students that rushed the field when the game went final. “It was incredible. The whole team played really well. It was unfortunate we couldn’t put it in during regulation, but to come through in the end it feels amazing.”
“We knew we were going to win the whole time,” Benner said. “We had so much confidence, but it was just getting frustrating because we couldn’t get it in, and we’re not used to that. They put up a great fight, they’re really good.”
Somerville shot first during the shootout, as Wall freshman keeper Alex Panasuk and Werner each saved the first attempts against them. Johnstonbaugh and Jessie Maywalt then exchanged goals, before the Pioneers’ next attempt missed and Werner saved the Knights’ ensuing chance.
Lockwood, whose penalty kick 3:21 into overtime was saved by Panasuk as Lockwood tried for the right corner, then made up for it, burying one into the left corner. Wall’s next shooter missed high, but Benner’s attempt was then saved, before Heather Arbachesky hit for Wall to force sudden death.
After Johnstonbaugh and Maywalt exchanged goals, and Lockwood and Abigayle Musto traded successful attempts, Benner slammed one into the left corner, before Werner made a skidding stop of a roller to her left to clinch it.
“Lindsay Werner is just rock solid,” said Kydonieus of his junior keeper, who made five saves during the second half and overtime after relieving platoonmate Sarah Coulsen at halftime. “She’s battling injuries all year, in and out of the lineup, and we didn’t know if she was going to play in the state tournament. She said, “Coach. I got this.'”
“You give a lot of credit to Wall, they defended like dogs out there. “It was a great game and I think we deserved to win.”