The Whitewater Lady Wildcats got the state playoffs off to a thrilling start in a shootout win over the Grady Grey Knights.
“It’s nice to be on that end of the PKs every once in a while,” said coach Randy Hayes, whose team has been undone by shootouts in the playoffs in years past. “Grady is a better team than probably half the teams that are still in the playoffs. I think we’re fortunate to have come out on the top end.”
It was a complete team effort for Whitewater. Abby and Ally Smith controlled the midfield and Bella Millians provided a physical edge, but it was Emily Peterson who paced the offense. Hayes had a great game plan that saw the Cats continuously lob the ball over the top in the first half, allowing the speedy Peterson to frustrate Grady.
“She lit them up,” said Hayes. “She can do that. She’s got some speed and she’s got some moves.”
Defensively, Haleigh Meuninck, Peyton Lee, and the rest of their crew were suffocating at times.
“Our defense played extremely tough,” said Hayes.
They set the table for another strong showing from sophomore keeper Emma Fulton, who notched six saves.
“She played extremely well,” praised Hayes.
The Cats got on the board just over ten minutes into the match. It was Peterson corralling a long pass in stride and beating the keeper for a 1-0 lead.
Grady tied up the game with 17 minutes left in the half, but Whitewater had another answer ready less than three minutes later. This time Peterson did the dishing, setting up Ally Smithwick who faked out the keeper for a 2-1 advantage.
Missed opportunities would plague both teams the rest of the half, Grady missing just inches high, and Millians and Peterson each narrowly off target.
Whitewater thought they had a penalty shot coming when Peterson was brought down inside the box late in the half. The whistle didn’t come and it would stay 2-1 at halftime.
The call Whitewater wanted would instead go Grady’s way. Just three minutes into the second half, the Grey Knights converted a penalty kick to tie the match at 2-2.
The tie would hold throughout regulation. Whitewater’s best look came just before the buzzer when Kaitlyn Buck lobbed a great ball in the box, but no one could quite chip it into the net.
Neither team could find the net in the two overtime periods, setting up a shootout finish. Whitewater was flawless from there, converting all five attempts.
Cayson Greene, Emily Peterson, and Ally Smithwick tallied the first three. Grady kept pace through their first two shooters, but attempt three would hit the crossbar and Fulton finished the save. Their destiny in their own hands, Whitewater did not shy away. Peyton Lee was spot on and Aubrey Heard finished off Grady with a rocket to the back of the net.
Whitewater moves on to round two where they will host Walnut Grove Tuesday, May 5 at 6 p.m. in round two.
For more photos from the game, click [btn type=”default or primary or success or info or warning or danger or link” link=”http://www.cdphotography23.com/Sports/High-School/Soccer/Soccer-2015/Whitewater-vs-Grady/”]here[/btn].