Wall freshman goalie Alex Panasuk and Manalapan senior goalie Brianne Nealon were perfect on save opportunities through regulation and two overtimes.
So, it was onto penalty kicks to decide Friday’s Shore Conference Tournament first round girls soccer game.
The eighth-seeded Crimson Knights didn’t miss a shot in the penalty kick round and the ninth-seeded Braves made only half of their shots as Wall defeated Manalapan, 4-2, on the strength of penalty kicks after 100 minutes of scoreless soccer.
“We had our opportunities, it was just that we weren’t able to finish. They had some very good opportunities as well and no one was able to finish today,” Wall coach Mike Juska said.
Panasuk saved all 11 of the shots that Manalapan (9-5) took and Nealon saved all 10 of the shots that Wall (13-3) launched in Friday’s game.
“We had so many chances to put the ball in the back of the net and that is the bottom line,” Manalapan coach Rick Garretson said. You can’t leave things to penalty kicks.”
But that was the only way to decide the SCT game after two 40-minute halves and two 10-minute overtimes.
Manalapan shot first in the penalty kick round and senior Jessica Donnelly scored to the lower left for a 1-0 lead. Wall senior Paige Jacob went first for the Crimson Knights and she scored to the top right corner to make it 1-1. Manalapan senior Courtney White went lower left to make it 2-1 and then Wall sophomore Jessie Maywalt went lower left for the equalizer.
“Alex Panasuk has been playing great all year. I don’t even know how many shutouts she has this year already. For a freshman, she’s just unbelievable,” Juska said. “When you make that one save it puts pressure on the next player. Luckily for us, our next player put a goal over the top (of their goalie).”
Panasuk saved Manalapan freshman Olivia Connors’ shot to the right corner and that swung the momentum in Wall’s favor. Wall senior Alex Couto then went chest high to the right corner for the 3-2 lead.
“I think if it wasn’t for that save, the next girl doesn’t have that pressure,” Juska said. “We practice penalty kicks, so I was very confident in our girls.”
But each team had at least one more shot in the penalty kick round.
Trailing, 3-2, Manalapan junior Nicole Doherty fired a shot over the crossbar and then Wall junior Danielle Gardner clinched it with her shot.
Gardner fired waist high to the left corner and Manalapan’s Nealon made the initial stop but the ball trickled out of her grasp and the official ruled the ball crossed the line ending the SCT game.
“It is a shame, though. I felt we matched up well with just about anybody in the Shore Conference and when we play our brand of soccer, I think we can compete,” Garretson said. “Wall is a great team and they played very well today and they are well coached. It is the curse of the penalty kicks.”