SANDY — The road to the state championship hardly ever is an easy one traveled. That certainly was the case in the girls' 2A semifinal game at Jordan High Friday night.
For St. Joseph and Manti, 80 minutes wasn't enough, nor 90 minutes to break a 1-1 tie. And 100? Not even that. With a chance to face Waterford at Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday at 4 p.m. on the line, it came down to the last gunner in a shootout.
Tied at 4-4, after Jayhawks sophomore keeper Ali Kohler blocked a left-hand attempt, Katie Panushka stepped to the 7-yard line with the game in her hands.
"Just keep it to the left side; don't change my shot," Panushka said. "I was just thinking get it in — nothin' else."
Panushka, standing directly behind the ball, inched forward and fired a bullet to the high left corner for the 5-4 shootout win.
"I can't even describe the feeling," Kohler said. "To fight that goal, to comeback, fight through all 20 minutes of overtime and make all of our PKs — we're so proud."
"Oh man. I'm just really proud of all of our girls. We maintained possession throughout the entire game — it was our game to win," Panushka added. "I think we had a couple shots that should have gone in, we had a lot of chances, I'm just glad that we finished until the very end. We didn't let them take to us all the way to PKs affect us at all. I was really proud of us."
The fact that the game came down to penalty kicks is bewildering in its own right. St. Joseph played in possession virtually the entire game with numerous scoring opportunities sailing left, right, high and low. The Jayhawks, including both overtimes, only allowed one shot on goal.
St. Joseph finally broke through at the 54th minute off Panushka's header on a corner kick.
"We've been working on corners a lot in practice and I knew that Christie has been playing amazing balls in and I knew that I could get it in and we connected," Panushka said. "It was a beautiful ball on her part, the least I could do was put it in — it was easy."
The goal logically seemed like enough considering Manti had crossed midfield only twice up to that point. However, after a fast break allowed a throw in, Kelcie George squared up and booted a powerful rising ball that boinked off the goal post and to the opposite side corner to even things at 1-1.
"I mean it's always frustrating when you hold a team to one shot and they make that shot," Panushka said. "I was really proud of our girls to keep pounding, keep being aggressive and not let that affect our game."
In the shootout the first three kickers notched points, but ultimately Kohler jumped the fourth attempt.
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