With the game on the line Friday, Rochester turned to a play that hadn’t worked all season.
Senior Ally Milnes’ ground-ball corner kick went to senior Becca Jostes, who stepped over it and let it pass to senior Amanda Williams just inside the box.
Williams did the rest, ripping a shot off the outstretched hands of Triad senior goalkeeper Gabby Gayser and inside the left post in the 73rd minute to give the Rockets a 2-1 victory over the Knights in the championship game of the Class 2A Triad Sectional.
“I think that’s actually the first time it’s gone in all year,” Williams said. “But what a better time than this? All (Jostes) had to do was make it look as real as possible and step over it. Most of the time, the defenders aren’t looking for that dummy, and I was right there to hit it.”
Rochester (22-2-1), the defending state champion in Class 1A, will play Normal West at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Springfield Super-Sectional. Normal West defeated Morton 2-0 on Tuesday to win the East Peoria Sectional.
Triad finished 16-5-3.
Knights coach Matt Bettlach said his players were caught ball-watching on Williams’ deciding goal, which came at 72 minutes, 59 seconds.
“It’s funny because we’ve got the same corner-kick play they do. We didn’t use it tonight,” said Bettlach, a former teammate of Rochester coach Chad Kutscher at McKendree University. “They brought it out against us. It’s a design play where you draw someone to the ball and she dummies over it ... and a girl steps in and ... She hit a great shot. You can’t defend that.
“Unfortunately, our girls got caught ball-watching. That’s why you run that play that play, because if you can run over the ball, you can keep them watching and moving, then you have that third person step in and hit that bomb. That’s exactly what she did.”
Tough and tight
Both teams displayed their high skill levels at various poibnts in the game.
Rochester scored first on goal by senior Maisyn Garland at 6:23. Garland got deep in the box and poked a shot past Kayser off a feed from Milnes.
But Triad, which defeated Springfield on a restart goal in the semifinals on Tuesday, got the equalizer at 23:35.
Junior Meaghan Smith hit a free kick from above the right side of the box that was on frame and saved by Rochester senior keeper Maddi Gleeson. Freshman Jordan Wilson was there for the rebound and finish that made it 1-1.
“It was a well-earned kick and the ball went in and the girls were aggressive,” Bettlach said. “Jordan Wilson was there to tap it in.”
Triad maintained solid possession for the remainder of the half, but after the break, the Rockets began to assert themselves.
Finally, Kutscher called on his corner-kick play that had produced no results this season.
“I think a lot of people have that in their bag of tricks,” Kutscher said. “Everybody thinks (Jostes) is going to be on that. She’s one of our top scorers and you have to honor that, because if you don’t, she can take that. That’s part of it, too. She’s kind of the one that decides. Is she going to dummy or is she having the shot? Is she close enough?
“If the ball’s in a little deeper, she’s got the option (to shoot). But right there, she was a little further out and she did a good job with it. She does a great job selling that.”
Clark doesn’t play
Kayser played well in goal, recording two saves. Kayser played for senior Skye Clark, who was unable to compete after injuring her thumb Tuesday.
“It would have been for emergency purposes only,” Bettlach said of the conditions that would have had Clark in the game. “Gabby did great. She’s awesome. I don’t know whether Skye would have saved those (goals), either.”
Triad will graduate a half-dozen seniors, but will returns many of its key players next year, including Smith, Sam Bassler, Katie Rogers, Molly Suess and Morgan Bohnenstiehl.
“We lose six seniors: two valuable keepers and four field players,” Bettlach said. “We’re going to miss them dearly. They’re a big asset to our program, but I like what’s in our system still.”