Girls Soccer: Johnson's late goal keeps Wildcats alive

November 03, 2012|By DANIEL KAUFFMAN |
  • Williamsport's Ashley Likely (10) battles Oakdale's Tanner Bradley for the ball in the first half of Saturday's Maryland Class 2A West girls soccer semifinal at Williamsport.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT — Pushed deep into its own end by No. 3-seed Oakdale for much of Saturday’s Maryland Class 2A West girls soccer semifinal, No. 2-seed Williamsport fought and clawed for the one opportunity the Wildcats needed to beat the Bears.

In the 79th minute, Lauren Johnson got it.

Johnson outraced the Oakdale defense to run onto a beautiful through ball by Victoria Key, then poked a shot under Bears keeper Christi LaBella and into the goal to give Williamsport a stunning 1-0 victory and a spot in Tuesday’s 2A West final at top-seed Middletown.

“I don’t know if I saw it coming, but I knew as a team we kept fighting and fighting and we believed it would come — if not me, then someone else,” Johnson said.

“I told the girls we have to believe we deserve to be here and that we can win,” Wildcats coach Tim Salvagno said. “For the first time in three years, I think we did.”

The battle lines were drawn within the first 10 minutes of Saturday’s highly entertaining contest.

Oakdale (11-2-2) controlled most of the possession and sustained its attack in Williamsport’s end, generating numerous corner kick opportunities that Ann Marshall and Tanner Bradley put into the middle of the 6-yard box. The Bears took 13 corner kicks to the Wildcats’ two in the game.

On the other hand, when Williamsport (13-2-1) managed to clear those corner kicks away from danger, or had time with the ball in midfield, the Wildcats turned speedsters Johnson and Ashley Likely loose on the counterattack, with both having the speed to outrace Oakdale’s defenders.

And so the game went, with the Wildcats dodging bullet after bullet on corner kicks, and the Bears having to contend with Williamsport’s speed coming back the other way.

“Set pieces have been our weakness all season long and we’ve been (defending) them in practice for two weeks,” Salvagno said. “Possession is our game, but we knew against them we would have to go over the top and use our speed.”

After a series of close calls for both teams, the speed won out for the Wildcats.

With just under two minutes left in the game, Key wound up with the ball at her feet in midfield. She instantly threaded a pass between Oakdale’s two central defenders for Johnson to run onto.

Johnson took a couple touches as a Bears defender closed from behind and LaBella raced out from the goal mouth. Johnson’s last touch — just before LaBella got to her — snuck under LaBella and slowly rolled into the goal, bringing the Wildcats’ fans to their feet.

“I saw it coming, saw Victoria get to the ball, and then it was just about fighting to get onto it,” Johnson said.

Oakdale finished with a 13-4 edge in shots and will certainly rue its missed chances.

In the 45th minute, Amber Albrecht hit the crossbar with a shot from the right side, and Williamsport keeper Julia Price scrambled to keep the rebound out of danger. In the 50th, Julia Mullican headed a Marshall corner kick just wide of the right post. In the 59th, Erika Triebel’s header went just wide of the left post. In the 72nd, Brooke Anderson’s flick-on header was stopped by Price. And in the final minute, the Bears fired two shots inside the 18-yard box that Williamsport defenders blocked.

Williamsport’s Erin Palmer hit the crossbar with a 23-yard free kick in the 65th minute, with the rebound bouncing off another Wildcats player before going out of play just wide of the right post.

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