Centennial goalkeeper Natalie Gilbertson has seen her fair share of penalty-kick shootouts, and experience has taught her one thing.
“They always go left first,” the junior shot-stopper said. “That’s what I’ve learned: they always go left first.
Gilbertson made six saves in regulation and two overtime periods, then dove left to stop two of four PK attempts to help the Bulldogs knock off top-ranked Palo Verde, 4-2 on penalty kicks Thursday in a Sunset Region semifinal.
Both teams were scoreless after 80 minutes of regulation and two 15-minute overtime periods.
“I’ve lost plenty (of shootouts), and it feels good to win this one,” Gilbertson said. “I wanted to win it for my team … This feels fantastic.”
Gilbertson stopped the first attempt of the shootout, diving left to hold out Tatiana Pagan’s shot and give the Bulldogs (16-3-1) the early advantage.
Bethanie Skelton, Gabrielle Romero, Faith Johannes and Dominique Romero each converted a penalty kick for Centennial.
“Stepping up, I knew that I had to make it just to put my team on the board,” said Skelton, who laced a bullet to the bottom left corner for the Bulldogs’ first PK. “I knew if I made it, the pieces would fall into place, and everyone could make theirs, too. I had to take my opportunity for the team, and I did.”
Gilbertson made five saves during regulation, including charging off her line to stuff a breakaway shot by Palo Verde’s Alyssa Kleiner in the 58th minute before following it up with back-to-back saves a minute later.
“When field players see a keeper willing to put it all on the line, that gets them going,” Centennial coach Jeremy Gill said.
Stacie Gubler had five saves for Palo Verde (18-3-3) before the shootout, clamping a critical lob shot by Dominique Romero seven minutes before the end of regulation to preserve the scoreless draw.
“Honestly, I couldn’t have scripted it any better,” Gill said. “We wanted to score and win … but both teams were battling. The crowd, everybody, all the players hurt; it was a freaking battle. That is a great, great team (Palo Verde).”
Arbor View 1, Bishop Gorman 0 — Tara LeBaron scored the lone goal of the match with five minutes remaining as the Aggies edged the Gaels.
Amberly Halstead set up the match-winner, stealing the ball near the top of the box and dishing the cross to LeBaron, who redirected it down the middle.
Both teams played with 10 players from the 30th minute, as Gorman’s Haley Wingender and Arbor View’s Tori Rodriguez each received a red card following a scuffle.
Kyla Salazar made four second-half saves to preserve the shutout for Arbor View (15-2-2).