by Riley Hicks
“I was really nervous just coming off the bench with one minute in overtime, but I had another game just like this, so I knew I could do it.”
McIntosh goalkeeper Stephanie Yi battled nerves stepping in for Emily Lopez, who went down with a leg injury at the end of overtime, against Starr’s Mill, but she steeled herself to make two huge saves in a shootout to seal up another region championship for the Lady Chiefs. Regulation and overtime were not enough to determine a victor, so the game would need to be decided with penalty kicks, where McIntosh came out on top 4-2 to claim the title.
“That was a real goal of ours this year, and we are excited going into the playoffs as the number one seed,” head coach Marcia Clark said. “Starr’s Mill played awesome, and we hope to see them in the finals. The girls were all heart and came through as I knew they would.”
Throughout the first 20 minutes of the game, McIntosh controlled the majority of possession and did not allow Starr’s Mill a chance to form any offense, but the Chiefs were unable to capitalize with the amount of possession they had at the start of the game. Every time a McIntosh player sent in a ball towards the goal, nobody was there to put into the net.
After countless shots on goal that were just off target, the Chiefs finally broke the deadlock in the 19th minute with a score from Kimmy Edgeworth. It came on a corner by Lauryn Phillips that found the foot of Edgeworth, who chipped it into the net to go up 1-0.
Starr’s Mill continued to string together some sort of offense. With the limited chances to score, the Panthers took advantage of each opportunity they were given. The biggest opportunity arose in the 25th minute, when Sara Evans sent a through ball to Chloe Thompson, who dribbled behind the keeper for a soft touch into the goal that tied the game at 1-1.
Following the score, the defenses locked in and would not give an inch. Throughout the second half, the shots on goal were at a minimum, sending the game into overtime. Two five minute overtimes would not help either in deciding the champion.
In PKs, the first shooters answered one another with a score. When the second shooters came up, McIntosh scored, but Starr’s Mill was stopped a diving save from Yi. In the third attempt, both teams put one past the keepers. Finally, when the fourth shooters made their shots, the Chiefs scored again. The Panthers were unsuccessful again as Yi lunged to her right for another diving save that solidified the victory.
Even with the loss, Panthers head coach John Bowen could not be more proud of his team.
“We measured up, we just came up a little short,” Bowen said. “We showed well enough we can play. Now, what we have to learn, especially with how young we are, is that’s how we need to play every day, it just can’t be the McIntosh game.”
With McIntosh capturing round one in the Battle of the Bubble, the Starr’s Mill boys hoped to split the night with a victory of their own. In a grueling match from start to finish, the Panthers claimed a 3-0 victory and broke a seven-year region championship drought.
“We had a long road for this, and our boys played great,” Panther head coach Mike Hanie said. “Our defense played well, and we scored goals when we needed to, and it was a great team effort.
Starr’s Mill did what few teams have been unable to do all season, which was keep McIntosh from scoring goals. The Panthers rose to the challenge and accomplished it behind freshman goalkeeper Andrew Cole.
While Starr’s Mill managed to keep McIntosh scoreless, the first part of the game seemed to be leading in the favor of the Chiefs. Through the first 20 minutes, the Chiefs controlled possession and kept the Panthers on their heels. The possession finally evened out towards the closing end of the first half.
“We could not string together three passes, but finally, we told them to keep the ball and play the feet and it looked a lot better,” Hanie said. “They would get it and knock it long, and we just needed to get it and possess it.”
The game looked to be going into halftime scoreless as both defenses seemed unbreakable through the first 30 minutes. In the 33rd minute, it changed when a Chief defender took Ryan Shanahan down inside the box. Shanahan made the most of the penalty kick, drilling it into the corner of the net for a 1-0 lead going into the half.
During the second half, the Chiefs continued their offensive attack, but the wall that the Panthers built would not break even once. Starr’s Mill’s offense continued to pound away and take its chances when the opportunities arose. They struck again in the 74th minute, when Kyle Soto sent a long pass down field to Kenan Godfrey, who chipped it to Shanahan for his second goal of the night. The scores did not stop there, as two minutes later, Soto shot towards goal only to have it blocked, and Sam Pompeo corralled rebound and put the ball in the back of the net to capture the 3-0 win and a region crown.
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