SANDY — The Waterford Ravens soccer team has been practicing shootouts for two weeks.
Fast forward to the end of Saturday's 2A championship match and it's apparent that preparation made a difference.
Waterford, the defending 2A champion, picked up its second consecutive title at Rio Tinto Stadium with a win over St. Joseph, 1-1 (3-0).
"I couldn't be any happier," Waterford coach Tim Dolbin said after receiving a Gatorade bath. "I didn't want it to come down to a shootout, but for two weeks straight we have practiced that. ... It just paid off."
St. Joseph scored first to take an early lead. Jayhawk senior Katie Panushka knocked the ball in the net when the teams converged on the goal in just the 16th minute of the game.
"Coming back from being down 1-0, no matter who you are playing in a setting like this, is always very difficult," Dolbin said.
His team also had to rally from an early deficit in the semifinal matchup against Maeser Prep on Friday.
"Having done that yesterday, I knew that would at least keep everybody believing that the game was not over," he continued. "We hadn't done that all season."
For the second straight day, Grace Sponaugle came to Waterford's rescue.
"She hit both (goals) yesterday and the one today," Doblin said of Sponaugle. "She's only a 10th-grade player and she's got a long soccer future ahead of her."
Sponaugle collected the ball in the middle of the field and shot straight on. The St. Joseph goalkeeper dove, but couldn't hang onto the ball.
"I saw (the ball) in front of me, it was bouncing and I was like, 'OK, I got good leverage to make the shot,'" Sponaugle said. "When I kicked it, I didn't think it was going in. Then I saw it and I froze. I thought 'It actually went it?' I was super happy."
Though Waterford dominated possession throughout the remainder of the game, neither team could find the net again. St. Joseph had needed a shootout to defeat Manti in its semifinal match on Friday, but couldn't repeat that scenario.
Caroline Coats, Maddie Morrill and Sydney Harrison each scored on their attempts, while Raven goalkeeper Lauren Groathouse deflected each of the St. Joseph shots.
"Our goalie, she did an amazing job," Sponaugle said. "I was so proud of her. She pretty much won the game for us."
The championship is Waterford's second in a row and its fourth title in the past five years. The game was also a continuation of an ongoing rivalry between the two schools.
"This is the fourth time we have met on this field in a row," Doblin said, referring to the championship stage. "Had they won today, we'd be tied up 2-and-2 and we would have alternated years."
The last time the Ravens didn't play against St. Joseph for the championship was in 2008. That year, Waterford was a 3A school and both teams took home titles.
"Thank goodness for their program," Doblin said. "We just battle together. The rivalry is fun—it has turned into a friendly rivalry with mutual respect of coaches. My hat's off to (St. Joseph coach) Alex Salvo. He has a fine team. They played their hearts out."
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