Big games are usually filled with big moments, but in the case of the Northwestern and Red Land opening round state soccer match-up there was only one.
Unfortunately, for the Tigers the monumental moment was in the favor of Red Land. The Patriots out-scored Northwestern 6-5 in the shootout session to get the 1-0 victory, ousting the Tigers from state competition.
The Tigers (20-3) lived dangerously throughout the whole first half, with Red Land (19-3) looping passes into the Northwestern box on numerous occasions.
Northwestern had its best chance to score in the opening half when Sarah Segan made a nice move and took the ball down the pitch. Segan was denied by Red Land goal keeper Rachael Fox, who deflected the ball to the left of the goal post just three minutes into the game.
"It was not one of our best games of the season that's for sure," said Red Land head coach Jamie Miller. "We had some opportunities to score, but I don't think we came out and played that well in the first half. We just didn't do the things we do in practice that have made us so successful this season."
The second half was a battle, much like the first with Northwestern being the more aggressive of the two clubs. The Tigers had some chances to score in the second and at the 14:15 mark almost did just that. Rachel Kester booted a free kick from about 25 yards out that bounced off the top cross bar and out of the goal. The Tigers tapped the ball in for an apparent score, but an offside penalty would negate the Tiger goal.
The Tigers had one more chance to knock in a goal when Segan slipped by the Patriots defense with 3:40 left in regulation, but the ball inched wide left.
"It was a great game between two good teams and it was a great game to coach," said Northwestern head coach Kelly Bleam. "We played well and when you're in a battle like we were in today you just tell the girls to keep doing what they're doing and keep playing tough. It was eveident that goals were not going to come easy."
Goals certainly did not come easy as the Tigers and Patriots remained knotted at 0-0 at the end of regulation and also two overtime sessions, meaning this one would be decided by penalty kicks.
Julia Keebaugh, Brinley Watts, Kaylee Harner, Erin Keller and Maisie Todd made their shots for the Patriots. Matching them for the Tigers in the alternating shot format were Haylee Kubat, Emily Bartlett, Sara Jones, Nicole Lach and Rachel Kester.
With the penalty shot score knotted at 5-5, the game boiled down to sudden death penalty shots.
That's when Red Land freshman goalie Rachael Fox stepped up.
Fox stopped a Michaela Lacek shot, which gave the Patriots a chance to earn the victory. Red Land's Maddi Todd didn't disappoint, scoring the winning goal to help the Patriots advance.
"The thing about games like this is that it comes down to a great player missing a shot or a great goal keeper making a save," said Bleam. "I'd rather say that the goal keeper made a great save."
Red Land, who was considered to be a sizeable favorite coming into the game was pushed around at times by the smaller Northwestern team and Patriots coach Jamie Miller was impressed with the play of the Tigers.
"They were a tough team," said Miller. "The credit goes out to them. They pushed us around a lot today and made it difficult for us to score the ball. We definitely have to come out and play better if we want to beat our next opponent."
Northwestern coach Kelly Bleam was also happy with the way her team played and is excited for next year when the Tigers will play schools in their size classification.
"We're looking forward to see what we can do against school's that are our size," said Bleam. "We have a lot of talent coming back next season so we have to get back to work and be ready to play in the fall."