Between goalkeepers and forwards, it’s about capitalizing on what you know.
That’s why Chaparral had confidence in Rachel Johnson during penalty shots — the Firebirds knew she could stop shots, and consequently, even under pressure, she knew how to stop others.
While stopping three of four shots in overtime, the Firebirds rode Johnson for a 4-3 win against Tucson Catalina Foothills for a championship finish in the Gold finals of the Horizon Tournament of Champions on Saturday.
“That was a lot on her shoulders, Rachel did an awesome, she’s an awesome keeper,” forward Ali Kallner said. “It’s routine for us, but she teaches us what we need from her, and we teach her what she needs from us.”
Despite being more than 35 yards out from the goal, it was Kallner who delivered the final goal for the Firebirds, taking advantage of the goalkeeper playing too close to the post.
“Every day we are working on shooting, so it’s just kind of habit,” Kallner said. “The keeper had that side, so I just kind of took it.”
Despite trailing in the early stages, the Firebirds (7-1) converted a corner kick by Maggie Clemmons, which deflected off Allison Jordan and into the goal in the 50th minute to tie the game. Seizing upon momentum, Kallner’s goal gave the Firebirds a 3-2 advantage seven minutes later for the first Chaparral lead of the game.
“During halftime, I just told them, ‘We need to score. In order to win, you need to score goals. So you need to go out there and you need to fight them, and no matter what happens, you need to keep going out there and keep testing, and keep putting pressure on them and keep getting after it,’” said Chaparral coach Robyn Carlson.
And score they did, delivering not only the two goals in the second half, but also converting three of five penalty kicks, with Katie Clemmons jogging up and nonchalantly delivering the final one with ease.
“It was just really exciting," she said. "We haven’t advanced past the semifinals in this tournament in a really long time, so it was good to get that big win this early in the season.”
But the Falcons (9-2-1) didn’t go quietly, adjusting to four forwards late in the game, and scoring on the leg of Alleah Strength, who was assisted by a crisp crossing pass in the 75th minute. Strength added another goal in the 33rd minute when Emily Parker cross a ball across the box for Strength to clean up.
The Falcons were also aided by a goal from Emily Green from 35 yards out in the 15th minute. But the Firebirds responded quickly with their own speedy forwards. Alicia Jamision who outran several Foothills defenders for the goal seven minutes later.
“We had to battle the whole game just to keep ourselves in the game, then they found a way to win on penalty kicks,” said Foothills coach Charlie Kendrick. “So for them psychologically, this is a team to watch out for in the rest of the season."