It's said that no one likes to settle a soccer game with a penalty kick shootout. Least of all in the state championship.
Not so, says Highland goalkeeper Ashley March.
"I love PKs, I live for PKs, they're a goalkeeper's dream and goalkeeper's worst nightmare," March said.
That was after she stopped the first and fourth shots by Hamilton and her teammates knocked in all of theirs, capped by Ashley Hatch's shot above Husky keeper Laura Glew to clinch the Hawks ‘ first Division I state girls soccer title, 2-1, at Campo Verde on Saturday.
"You are the hero," March said. "It doesn't get much better than that."
Highland coach John Berzins concurred.
"We have all the faith in the world," he said. "We needed her to make one save and she made two."
The Hawks had tied the game at 1 in the 64th minute and then the teams played through two 10-minute overtime periods and two five-minute "golden goal" (sudden-death) periods before having to decide the state title at the spot.
"I try to read but a lot of it is just a guessing game," March said, adding that she didn't know if she just guessed right in stopping kicks by Rachel Shedd and Gabby Martinez.
Interestingly, March stopped the kicks that went to her right and allowed goals to Kylie Miniefield and Lindy Snyder, who kicked to March's left.
Caroline Stosz, Cassidy Ogden, Molly Celler and Hatch scored for Highland.
"Some of them you can read," Hamilton's Glew said of defending penalty kicks. "I give Highland all the credit in the world. They were great PKs, we were just unlucky."
Hatch said, "I wished we would have won it before PKs, but we did what we had to do."
"It's been a long time coming for the program in general," Berzins said.
For top-seeded Hamilton, the tables were turned. Last year, the Huskies were the underdog to Phoenix Xavier and upset the Gators for the big school title.
"It hurts but there is no way I can be mad or sad at my team, no way," said Hamilton coach Mark Eggleston. "They did everything they could, did everything I asked them to do."
After Hamilton took the lead in the 24th minute, it didn't look like Highland would get a chance to get back in it.
The Huskies got on the board first when freshman Riana Metsger got behind defenders to head in a ball from Meaghan Pasbrig after Highland failed to clear the ball. The Huskies seemed to get more chances early and then the game settled into a defensive stalemate.
Highland didn't get a lot of opportunities but did try some set pieces off Jaden DeGracie's powerful flip throw-in. With 16 minutes left in regulation, it finally paid off.
DeGracie flipped and although Hamilton tried to clear it, the Huskies kicked it out of bounds, giving the Hawk junior a second attempt, a little closer to the goal. She did so, finding Paige Morris, who headed it in a narrow space between Glew and the left post to tie the game.
Both teams had chances in overtime. The best for Hamilton being in the 95th minute when Pasbrig had a corner kick and Miniefield ended up heading the ball that was saved by March. For Highland, Hatch had the ball and got it in front of the goal but Jarvis and Bre McCarter couldn't put it away in the 99th minute.
Both Glew and March had to make some key saves but the respective defenses were steadfast all afternoon.
Hamilton's backline of Martinez, Shedd and Emily Ravenhill and others turned away the Hawk chances, many of the late ones started by Brena Jarvis.
Highland's Celler, Stosz and Zorena Hazen kept Hamilton's McKaya Brown at bay most of the match.