Facing a 3-1 deficit late in the second half Tuesday, things looked bleak for the Triad High girls soccer team.
But the Knights got two goals from junior Sam Bassler in a span of 1 minute, 55 seconds to tie the game, then got a free kick from junior Meaghan Smith in the first overtime and held on for a 4-3 victory over the Springfield Senators in two overtimes in the semifinals of the Class 2A Triad Sectional.
“We had some good looks at goal and they just weren’t going in,” overjoyed Knights coach Matt Bettlach said. “The next thing you know, we’re down 3-1. I sat down and put together a little formation on paper and we put it to fruition on the field.
“I’m just so proud of my kids. We kept battling. There were some tough calls and we just kept grinding. That’s all I can ask of these kids. I’m still a little shocked, but so happy, so proud.”
The Knights (16-4-3) will play Rochester (21-2-1) in the title game at 6 p.m. Friday. Rochester, the defending Class 1A state champion, eliminated Waterloo 3-0 in the other semifinal.
“When we got down 3-1, Matt took Meaghan and I off and he was like, ‘Get a quick drink. I’m going to write something up,’” Bassler said of a formation change that featured four forwards. “He wrote something up and we went back in and everyone’s intensity went up. Then when we scored our second goal, our adrenaline started rushing and it sparked everyone.”
Springfield, which got two goals from senior Katie Collins and one from freshman Maria Jorquera to build their two-goal lead, finished 14-7-1.
“(Triad) kept fighting to create some chances,” Senators coach Pat Phillips said. “We had some chances to get that fourth one in regulation. It just didn’t happen.”
Clark and Triad freshman Katie Rogers traded goals in the first 29-plus minutes, but Collins scored again to give Springfield a 2-1 lead at halftime.
Jorquera scored off the hands of Triad senior goalie Gabby Kayser in the 59th minute to boost the Senators’ lead to 3-1. Kayser replaced senior Skye Clark, injured in the first half.
Bassler hit the post in the 68th minute, but Triad maintained possession and finally scored when Bassler converted from the middle of the box on a feed from freshman Jordan Wilson.
Bassler was at it again less than two minutes later, scoring in front of the left post off a high, arching feed from the right corner by sophomore Maddie Keller.
“It kept going higher,” Bassler said of Keller’s service from the corner. “I was going to run in front of the goalkeeper because usually the goalkeeper comes out and hits it. All of a sudden, I saw the goalkeeper coming out. I took a step back and floated it over her head.”
Smith’s go-ahead goal in the 88th minutes came after she was fouled a few feet outside the left corner of the box. She hammered her ensuing free kick around the Springfield wall and into the upper-left corner, giving sophomore keeper Kalynn Clearwater no chance to make a save.
“I got knocked in the head, so I was kind of dazed for a little bit,” Smith said. “I practice (free) kicks a lot. After practice, I come in and hit them. I knew whenever I had the opportunity, I had to capitalize off it. I just pretty much hit it as hard as I could and it went in the back of the net.”
Best win of season
Bettlach agreed that the comeback victory was the sweetest of the season.
“We’ve seen some talented teams this year, but I haven’t seen anything like that, with speed and physicality,” he said. “They challenged every ball. Our girls had to work for 80 minutes, well, 100 minutes. There was no letdown. (The Senators) were fast. They brought it all over the field.
“That’s why I’m so happy for my kids. To come back against a team like that, with the product they had on the field, I’m very happy. Best win by far.”
Rochester 3, Waterloo 0
The Rockets, defending state champions in Class 1A, were kept off the board in the first half despite outshooting Waterloo 9-0.
Rochester, however, continued to dominate possession in the second half and eventually pulled away on two goals by senior Amanda Williams and one by senior Becca Jostes.
“They move it well,” said Waterloo coach Chad Holden, whose team lost 4-0 to Rochester in the Metro Cup Tournament in March. “We knew it was going to be a tough task ahead of us, but we kept them scoreless for what, 55 minutes, 60 minutes? They’re very good. They’ve got a lot of weapons. You can’t man-mark the entire team. They were very deserving of winning the game.”
The Bulldogs, who were outshot 15-1, finished 17-4-3. Sophomore Bailey Bosler had 11 saves in goal for Waterloo.
Williams scored the only goal the Rockets needed at 56:23, heading one in from a few feet outside the left post. Williams scored inside the right post at 73:22 to make it 2-0 before Jostes sealed the victory off a rebound at 77:41.
Williams scored four goals in the two games against Waterloo.
“Becca Jostes is very good, too,” Holden said. “We had her kind of marked up also. Not only can she score, but she can create plays. We were hoping if we could take her out a little bit ... (But) she was able to get the assist on that first one.”
Rochester coach Chad Kutscher, who played at McKendree University, said he and his players collectively exhaled after Williams finally put the Rockets on top 1-0.
“When you’re getting looks like that, you just have to trust that eventually you’re going to put one away,” Kutscher said. “I really thought as long as we didn’t lose composure and as long as we kept making the runs and doing the same things we had done throughout the first half, I felt like it was going to happen.
“Credit to their goalie, credit to their defense. They did a nice job keeping us out. But eventually, we put enough pressure on them that we were able to put it away.”