It’s not over yet: GVS defeats Breck in state semi-final

Following a semi-final game that went to double overtime and a penalty shootout, the girls varsity soccer team is state championship bound for the first time since 2004.

After narrowly prevailing with 1-0 wins against challenging opponents in the section 3A final to earn them a spot at the state tournament and the state quarterfinal on Oct. 27, the Spartans knew their semi-final game against Breck would not be any easier.

The semi-final was not the first time the Spartans met the Mustangs this season. In the two games between the IMAC rivals earlier this fall, the teams split victories, with each team winning on the other’s home turf. Landing only one seed apart going into the tournament, the Spartans had to prepare for another even matchup and leave it all on the field.

“Having played them before, we knew who to look out for and where they were weak. Our coach told us to go into the game with the mindset that they were in the way of us getting to the finals, and that helped us stay aggressive and push through to the end,” captain Heidi Deuel said.

The first half started with high-energy from both teams. The defensive line led by Deuel, Aurelia Meza, Annie Zhang and Hazel McCarthy stayed organized in the face of fast-paced breakaways and offensive runs, keeping them at bay. Unfortunately, after a Breck free kick, the Mustangs capitalized on a deflected ball and got the lead. In the 17 remaining minutes in the half, midfielder Lucia Gonzalez and forward Sawyer Bollinger Danielson had multiple near-miss shots, resulting in a 0-1 score at halftime.

Entering the second half, the Spartan offense was determined to score, with midfielders Maryeva Gonzalez and Andrea Gist connecting quick passes in the center to redirect the ball to the forwards. After a Mustang defender fouled in the box, Gist got the Spartans on the scoreboard with a penalty kick and tied it up 1-1. The Mustangs responded less than a minute later with a penalty kick of their own to regain the lead.

With countless shots all evening, Bollinger Danielson came into the second half hungry for a goal. After dribbling around two Breck defenders, she fired off a shot from the 15-yard line on the field. Rising to the top left corner of the goal, Bollinger Danielson’s shot brushed off the goalie’s fingers, tying the game with 25 minutes left.

When regulation time ran out, the scoreboard remained at 2-2. The game then entered two 10-minute periods of golden goal overtime; whichever team scored first would take home the victory. Despite multiple close attempts from both teams, including a near miss from Bollinger Danielson in the first three minutes of overtime and a shot in the last 10 seconds from a Mustang forward, the teams moved on to a penalty shootout.

Spartan keeper Lindsay Browne entered the goal first, and the shootout began with a Mustang goal placed into the lower corner, inches away from Browne’s hands as she dove. Bollinger Danielson then calmly stepped up for the Spartans and evened the shootout score 1-1.

The second Breck shooter attempted to place the ball in the lower left corner, but Browne read her body language and blocked the shot with a dive. Lucia Gonzalez took a different approach and ripped the ball into the top center of the goal, giving the Spartans a 2-1 lead.

Browne made another key save against the Mustangs’ third shooter, who hit a low ball down the middle, maintaining the Spartans’ lead. After Meza chipped a fast-paced ball out of the Breck goalie’s reach and into the top of the goal, the Spartans deepened the lead to 3-1.

Once we went to penalty kicks, I knew we would win. I knew Lindsay could do it.

— Maryeva Gonzalez

All eyes were on Browne as she approached the goal to meet Breck’s fourth shooter. If she stopped the shot, the Spartans would move on to the finals. If the Mustangs scored, the shootout would resume.

Moving around the net for intimidation, Browne stared down her opponent. When she finally struck the ball, Browne dove and brushed it with her fingers, causing it to hit the post before it bounced off her head and away from the goal. Cheers echoed from the fan section as Browne immediately jumped up to celebrate with her teammates after her save secured them a spot in the championship.

“Once we went to penalty kicks, I knew we would win,” captain Maryeva Gonzalez said. “I knew Lindsay could do it.”

Though Browne had an impressive performance all night, from coming out of the goal to deflect breakaways to making crucial saves, the shootout was rightfully the most gratifying part of the game.

“I once had a club coach tell me that as a goalie, it’s not my job to stop the shots; it’s the shooter’s job to score. With that easing my mind, stopping three consecutive shots while my teammates went three for three on their own was pretty incredible,” Browne said.

Coming out of a hard-earned win, the team enters a Spartan soccer double header tomorrow night. GVS will take on St. Anthony Village in the championship game at the U.S. Bank Stadium tomorrow at 5 p.m., with BVS following at 7:15 p.m. All tickets must be pre-purchased through this link.