Jubilation and applause echoed across the 10 fields at Bettye Wilson Park on Thursday evening with several matches simultaneously going down to the wire.
Despite being the last to join the celebration, Palo Verde’s girls soccer team would admit: The wait was worth it.
Senior Macee Barlow headed in the winning goal five minutes into the second overtime to lift the Panthers over top-seeded Bishop Gorman 3-2 in a marathon of a Class 4A Sunset Region semifinal.
“That was a really, really intense game,” Barlow said. “We played our heart out, and I definitely think we deserved the win.”
Avery Jacobsen made the finale possible after the teams went scoreless in the first overtime. The senior’s 35-yard free kick deflected off Gorman goalkeeper Kirsten Kircher, which allowed Barlow to fight through defenders and score the golden goal.
“Avery’s free kicks are amazing, and I just had a feeling that it was going to be a really good kick,” Barlow said. “As soon as she kicked the ball, I heard my friend yell, ‘Follow it in.’ So I just knew I had to get on top of it.”
Palo Verde (16-2-4) will meet Arbor View (17-0-2) — an 8-0 winner over Faith Lutheran — in the region final at 10 a.m. Saturday at Bettye Wilson Park.
“That’s the best game I’ve seen my girls play, hands down,” Palo Verde coach Frank Messina said. “I told my girls twice, before each overtime period, ‘You’ve got to dig deeper than you’ve ever dug before.’ That’s what they did, and we came out on top. It’s the best soccer game I’ve seen from them all season.”
After a scoreless first half, the teams traded four goals in the next 40 minutes. Madison Hernandez’s goal with six minutes remaining appeared to be a winner for Palo Verde, when the freshman parlayed a slide tackle into a long shot attempt that sneaked inside the left post.
But Gorman’s Colbi Rohr scored an equalizer one minute later to send the game into overtime.
Kailee Barnhard made eight saves for Palo Verde. Kircher made four for the Gaels (21-3-1).
“If we were to go out, we wanted to make sure we went out fighting and playing our best,” Gorman coach Doug Borgel said. “To come back twice against such a good side showed how much heart we had. One way or another, somebody was going to lose tonight, and unfortunately, it was us.”
Arbor View 8, Faith Lutheran 0 — Jolie Meyers finished with a hat trick, and the Aggies scored four goals in the first 19 minutes en route to a dominating victory over the Crusaders in the other Sunset Region semifinal.
Deja Erickson and Preshus McCraney each had two goals, and Madison Boyd also scored for Arbor View, which will be seeking its fifth consecutive region title Saturday.
“We’re starting to peak at the right time,” Arbor View coach Jay Howard said. “We played really well today. Faith is a really good team and we got on them early, and obviously, it’s hard to come back from that.”
Melanie Ara, Hannah Ferrara and Allyssa Larkin had two assists apiece, and Sierra Vicente added one assist for the Aggies.
Beka Lescenski made 15 saves for Faith Lutheran (10-10-4).
”It’s been a successful year,” Faith Lutheran coach Steve Morrill said. “We knew coming into the season, it was going to be a tough season. We had our work cut out for us, but we also knew we were capable of doing really well. And we did.”