Published: May 21, 2012 12:00 AM
Modified: May 20, 2012 03:19 PM
CHAPEL HILL - It took three matches, two overtimes, two sudden-death periods and a set of penalty kicks, but Cardinal Gibbons finally got the better of conference rival Chapel Hill.
After tying 0-0 in regulation in their N.C. High School Athletic Association playoff game, the Crusaders made all five of their tries in a shootout Friday night at Chapel Hill and won the decision 5-4 on penalty kicks.
“That was an amazing game,” veteran Chapel Hill coach Ron Benson told his emotional players in a post-game huddle, adding “The play tonight was a credit to women’s sports at any level.”
Cardinal Gibbons (15-2-5) advances to play either Coastal Conference champion Jacksonville (20-2-4) or Coastal runner-up White Oak (19-2-2) in next week’s NCHSAA East Region final for 3A girls soccer.
Chapel Hill, which beat out Cardinal Gibbons for the Carolina-6 Conference title in the regular season, ended its year at 21-5-1.
“I could have predicted for you that Cardinal Gibbons was going to make it this far,” said Benson. “They may have five ties, but that’s a top-five team for sure.”
Cardinal Gibbons gave up just 11 goals in the regular season and shut out opponents in 14 matches. Before yielding a late goal in an 8-1 win at Northeast Guilford in the state 3A tournament’s first round, the Crusaders had not allowed a goal by an NCHSAA opponent since a 3-2 win by Chapel Hill at Cardinal Gibbons on March 27. CHHS and Cardinal Gibbons tied 0-0 on April 18.
“It was great to get another crack at them, and it was nice to finally beat them,” Cardinal Gibbons coach Michelle Miller said. “They play such good defense, it’s really hard to break them down.”
The Crusaders already had proven their mental toughness with three straight tournament wins on the road, including a 3-0 shutout Wednesday at previously undefeated Burlington Williams (18-1-3).
Missing one of their top scorers, Calleigh West, after she had her appendix removed Friday morning, the Crusaders still outshot Chapel Hill 28-9, including an 18-3 edge in the first 80 minutes. CHHS goalie Madeline Mesaros made 10 saves – five in the two overtimes and two sudden-death periods.
Cardinal Gibbons’ usual starting keeper, Kristin Toomey, came down with mononucleosis about 10 days before, sending Chapel Hill native Kathleen Davis into the goal. She only had to save three shots to preserve the shutout, but one came in the final minute of overtime on one of Chapel Hill’s best chances of the night.
A free kick by Chapel Hill’s Alexandra Kimball bounced off a couple of players, forcing Davis to punch away one shot before Frances Reuland got a foot on the ball and sent a side-winder kick just over the top bar.
Chapel Hill also got a frantic last chance in the final 15 seconds of sudden death, scrambling to set up a corner kick and then blasting a shot at Davis as the center referee waved it off and yelled, “It’s over. It’s over.”
Christina Gibbons almost won the game for the Crusaders in the 76th minute of regulation with a solid shot from just inside the penalty area that bounced off the near post before CHHS defenders could clear it.
“I know some of their players personally, so finally beating them was really satisfying,” said Davis, who’d never been in a shootout before Friday.
The shootout was tied 1-1 after the Crusaders’ Christina Gibbons made her kick, but the next CHHS player sent hers over the crossbar. Megan Goudy, Leigh McGill, Stephany Michalak and Morgan Reid all made theirs in quick succession to seal the decision, and the rest of the Crusaders mobbed them near midfield.
“We practice those all the time,” Davis said. “You have to push the ghosts of any mistakes in the game behind you and just live in the moment.”