LEXINGTON, Ky. – With every missed opportunity, the frustration mounted for the Sacred Heart Academy soccer team Wednesday night.
And in the final minutes, Owensboro Catholic finally broke the Valkyries’ hearts.
After Sacred Heart failed to clear a corner kick, Caroline Hayden knocked in a loose ball in the box with 6:15 remaining to give the Lady Aces a 1-0 victory in a rainy State Tournament semifinal at Henry Clay High School.
Sacred Heart had defeated Owensboro Catholic 4-0 in the state quarterfinals last year, but the Lady Aces avenged that loss with a stellar defensive performance and a bit of good fortune on offense.
“It was just a piece of magic that happened out of nothing,” Lady Aces coach Durand Engineer said of the winning goal. “I guess a little luck was on our side today.”
Sacred Heart’s Lauryn Westman controls the ball during the KHSAA State Tournament semifinals girls soccer match between Sacred Heart and Owensboro Catholic at Henry Clay High School in Lexington, Ky. Wednesday, November 5, 2014.
Owensboro Catholic (27-1) — ranked No. 4 in the state coaches’ Top 25 — advanced to the state final for the first time in program history and will face the South Oldham-Notre Dame winner at 5 p.m. Saturday.
No. 2 Sacred Heart (22-3) outshot Owensboro Catholic 10-4 — including 6-0 in the first half — but couldn’t take advantage. The Valkyries were penalized eight times for offsides as the Lady Aces used a trap on defense.
“We got impatient and kept jumping offsides,” Valkyries coach Jaclyn Puntillo said. “We had a lot of wasted opportunities early, and unfortunately we paid the price in the last minutes.”
Sacred Heart’s best scoring chance may have come in the first minute, when Lauryn Westman had a one-on-one with Lady Aces freshman goalkeeper Ellie Mitchell. Westman couldn’t get her shot past Mitchell, and Cat Fell’s rebound shot went just wide.
Mitchell was in goal for Lindsey Klump, who received a red card in Saturday’s 1-0 quarterfinal victory over No. 1 West Jessamine and received an automatic two-game suspension from the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.
Mitchell finished with six saves.
“She was awesome,” Engineer said. “She came out there and stood strong. She was very nervous before the game, but she was confident when she was out on the field.”
The Lady Aces finally got on the board in the 74th minute. Sacred Heart’s Sarah Stodghill made a leaping save of an Ambere Barnett shot, leading to a corner kick. Sarah Haleman played the corner kick into the box, and the ball eventually landed at Hayden’s feet.
“I just saw it right on my feet and tapped it,” Hayden said. “It was kind of slow motion, but it went in. I can’t express how good the feeling was.”
Sacred Heart failed to manage a shot after Hayden’s goal.
“When we don’t come out and score early we tend to get a little bit panicky,” Puntillo said. “We talked about that at halftime. We played a little more direct than I would have liked us to, didn’t really keep possession like we normally do. We just struggled.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and followed on Twitter @kyhighs.