And, with that kick taken by Harrison’s Jessica Sperry, the Lady Wolverines’ record-setting season came to an end.
Sperry’s shot beat Woodstock goalkeeper Abbey Booz to the far post and the defending state champion Lady Hoyas won 3-2 on penalty kicks in Wednesday’s second-round Class AAAAA state playoff game at Bruce Cobleigh Stadium.
“I wish we could have gone further,” Woodstock forward Caitlin Tongco said, “but who wouldn’t? I mean, I’m so happy right now. I’m crying, but they are tears of happiness. I couldn’t have asked for a better team, a better coach or a better season. And making it as far as we did in school history — everything — it’s incredible.”
Though Tongco’s two first-round goals at Centennial are what put Woodstock (13-4) in position to play in Wednesday’s game, she couldn’t find the back of the net against Harrison (13-4-1).
The Lady Hoyas put more defenders on Tongco, and defended by playing her closer and negating Tongco’s speed — and with it Woodstock’s ability to score goals with the use of lob passes over the defense.
“For (Harrison), they were kind of smart, because they had about four defenders holding back deep, so that was more than the usual team,” Tongco said. “Usually, they will only have one or two back, then we can beat them with speed by putting the ball over the top and just running on. We got through with passing and through balls more than just trying to kick it over.”
In addition to the problems Woodstock had finding a way to involve Tongco on offense, Harrison held possession throughout the first half and scored the game’s first goal off a turnover in the Lady Wolverines’ end.
In the 10th minute, Woodstock’s goal kick only traveled 30 yards, going straight to Harrison’s Anna Sims. Sims then put a through ball into the middle of the field for Sperry, who finished the ball to the left of Booz for the game’s first goal.
Though the Lady Hoyas dominated possession in the first half, they were only able to put two shots on goal. Still, for a team that had beaten Harrison 3-0 on April 20, it was clear that Woodstock expected more of an effort.
“In the first half, I just thought that our nerves got to us,” Woodstock coach Cory Nix said. “That wasn’t my team that was 13-3. I didn’t rip ’em one (at halftime), but I went down there and talked to them. I said, ‘It doesn’t look like you want to be in here or believe in yourself.’ I told them that they need to believe in each other, be aggressive and be the first one out to each ball — communicate, mark up and hustle. Basically, we stepped up in the second half.”
In the second half, Woodstock did step up. The Lady Wolverines put pressure forward, forcing Harrison to control the ball less and play more long passes.
As a result, the game had an up-and-down feel to it. Woodstock was able to take advantage of its speed and size to control the flow of the game from that point.
In the 57th minute, Woodstock drew a foul 20 yards outside of the penalty box. Though the set piece was cleared away by a bevy of Harrison defenders, Woodstock was able to cross the ball back into the box, where it ricocheted off several Harrison and Woodstock players before finding forward Natalie Leone within 6 yards of the goal.
Leone put the ball past Harrison goalkeeper Allison Leone to tie the score at 1-all. Throughout the next 23 minutes, and the 10 minutes of extra time, Woodstock continued to put pressure on Harrison, but was unable to find the back of the net.
In penalty kicks, Jordan Barham and Tongco each found the back of the net, while Booz was able to stop two shots. But it wasn’t enough to get the win.
“Who is going to step up and deliver?” Nix said. “We did our best, but PKs are just so much pressure. You’ve got to deliver right there. It’s a mind game for the goalie. If she guesses right, then it’s a good battle for her. We did everything we could have.”
The Lady Wolverines’ first-year coach said that this season will serve as a leaping point for the future.
“In the past, there has not been an offseason,” Nix said. “My goal at Woodstock is to turn this into a contender. There’s no going backwards after this. I might not be able to have the same wins and losses as this year, but there will be an offseason. And that offseason will start in a month.
“They are used to playing a little club all from the start of the summer and into the fall, then starting in January playing soccer. And that’s not going to cut it any more, not for us. We’re going to work out butts off. We’ll have a banquet and a team meeting, then we’ll go back to work.”