By Jimmy LaRoue
Midlothian, Va. - The Herndon Firecats had to overcome a two-goal deficit in regulation, and the dismissal of their coach at the end of overtime.
But they rallied gamely, and finally forged ahead in the sudden-death stage of a penalty-kick shootout to advance to the finals of the Under-17 Girls Virginia State Cup with a stunning 4-3 win over the Lee-Mt. Vernon Patriots on Saturday.
Goals from Niki Clark and Kara DeGuisto allowed the Firecats to force overtime, and then the two teams exchanged goals in the overtime session before moving on to penalty kicks, where the teams battled to the sixth round before Firecats goalkeeper Caroline Collier saved LMVSC’s final attempt.
The game was stopped for about 10 minutes near the end of the first half after a goalmouth collision left the Patriots’ starting goalkeeper injured. She sat out the second half and much of overtime, but came back into the match in the latter stages, before the shootout.
The Firecats might have come out on top with "PKs but the Patriots came out on top with "heart".
U-18 Girls Semi-Finals
The U-18 Patriots Girls, coached by Lula Bauer, battled through the Semi Finals while playing the 4th ranked team in the State, VISTA Omni. The U-18 Patriots scored early and fought hard to keep the score 1-0 to advance to the STATE CUP FINALS where they met six time State Cup Champs, nationally ranked CHAN Burn.
U-18 Girls Final
The U-18 game mirrored the U-17 Semi Final game heading into two 15 minutes over time periods after regulation with a score of 1-1. PKs were inevitable.
The CHAN Burn chose to go first:
The CHAN Burn made their first PK in the 1st round.
Score 1-0. Hearts pounding
Burn made their second PK in the 2nd round.
Score 2-0. At this point, the LMVSC Patriots were truly feeling the "BURN".
Burn missed their first PK in the 3rd round.
LMVSC’s Goal Keeper, Caroline Kelly, Verbally Committed to Virginia Tech, came out of her box to take and make theiPatriots first PK in the 3rd round.
Score 2-1. Hearts still pounding
Burn missed their second PK in the 4th round.
LMVSC’s Outside Back, Vasthy Delgado, Verbally Committed to Towson University, made their second PK in the 4th round.
Score 2-2. Adrenaline surging
Burn missed their third PK in the 5th round.
LMVSC missed their third PK in the 5th round.
Score 2-2. There’s a kind of a hush all over the field at this point - knowing that the six time State Cup Champs CHAN Burn and the first appearance since U-12 LMVSC Patriots are moving on to "one for ones".
Adrenaline has taken over the Patriots players on the field and there were no coaches close by to settle them down. The Patriots all looked over to the sidelines and yelled, "what do we do?" Coach McEntire yells back, "this is your game - you know what to do", as Coach Bauer nods with approval, knowing that the girls have trained for years for a moment like this.
Burn made their 4th PK in the 6th round.
LMVSC’s Attacking Center Mid, Bryce Debolt, class of 2013, took the stage and made their third PK in the 6th round.
Score 3-3. The field erupts with elation combined with relief. Only to quickly settle back into a hush as the players cling tightly to each other and silently look toward the goal.
Burn MISSED their fourth PK in 7th round.
The Patriots players are now frozen - trying to process what was happening - with no direction from their Coaches. Captain Nikki Nicholas, with a sense of calmness and leadership, spoke up and said deliberately, "Ladies, we did NOT work hard all these years to come here and lose... that is NOT an option!"
LMVSC Central Defender Nikki Nicholas, Verbally Committed to Towson, stepped up...waited for the Referee’s signal - something that her coaches have practiced with the team over and over, to avoid being tricked into going to early. She refused to look directly at the Burn keeper and kept her head down, giving no hints to her placement strategy. She acknowledged the Referee’s signal, and with total disregard for the Burn’s goalkeeper’s amazing wing span, she nailed the ball up and beyond the keeper’s reach. In a split second, the LMVSC U-18 Patriots, "the underdogs" became the VIRGINIA STATE CUP CHAMPIONS!
LMVSC U-18 Patriots watching Caroline Kelly, Goal Keeper, taking the third round of PKs after LMVSC having missed their first two.
Coach Bauer and Coach McEntire appearing calm, cool and collected which only lasted for the first two rounds of PKs.
Reaction after realizing.... THEY WON!