In a soccer shootout, the pressure usually sits squarely on the shoulders of the goalkeeper.
Bishop Gorman’s Kirsten Kircher found a way to quickly put that stress on Coronado’s shooters.
Kircher saved the first two penalty kicks of the shootout, and the Gaels prevailed 4-2 in the shootout in the Class 4A Desert Region championship game on Saturday at Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex. The game was tied 2-2 after regulation and two overtime periods.
“Honestly, I just went into the PKs and I was just like, ‘save the first two and it’s over right there,’” Kircher said. “It was just amazing for me to get my hand on it.”
Coronado’s Kaitlyn Kowalchuk stepped up to take the first attempt, and hit a low shot toward the right corner. But Kircher dived to her left and made the save. After the Gaels (24-0-1) converted their first attempt, Kircher made a leaping save of a shot by Haley Meusy that appeared to be headed to the upper left corner.
“The first one was a great save. The second one might be the best PK save I’ve ever seen,” Gorman coach Doug Borgel said. “Pretty solid. It gave us confidence, and the rest of the girls stepped up and hit great shots.”
Borgel said saving the first penalty kick swung things in Gorman’s favor.
“There’s momentum, even in penalties like that,” Borgel said. “And when you get the first one, it builds confidence and puts pressure on their second one. And for her to come up with that save, fantastic.”
Coronado (19-1-3) nearly won the game in regulation, as the Cougars led 2-1 with less than two minutes to play. That’s when Ashtyn Fink settled a ball on the right wing, turned and hit a long shot that drifted over the head of Coronado goalkeeper Taylor Book and inside the far post to tie the game.
“Coronado’s a great team and we knew it,” said Borgel, whose squad beat the Cougars 7-0 on the final night of the regular season. “They gave us everything they had and deserved as much as we did to win today. We were just a little more fortunate at the end, and once it gets to PKs it’s anybody’s game. But it was good to see our kids not go down without a fight.”
Gorman took a 1-0 lead at the half after Kevyn Hillegas tucked a 45-yard free kick just under the crossbar in the 26th minute.
Coronado tied the game on a goal by Alexis Pashales in the 46th minute. The Cougars took the lead when Kowalchuk, who had spent most of the game clearing every ball in the air from Coronado’s back line, ran onto a loose ball and drilled a shot from 45 yards out. The ball skimmed off the crossbar and into the net in the 70th minute.
Gorman plays Mountain Region champion Faith Lutheran (20-2) in the Southern Nevada championship game at 6 p.m. on Monday at Rancho. Both the Gaels, who won last year’s state championship, and Cougars advance to the Class 4A state tournament.
“Our goal from day one has been to defend our title,” Borgel said. “Just one step closer to do that. We probably have to play better if we want to win than we did today, but we’ll be ready.”