N.D. Prep wins shootout, defeats Forest Hills Northern, 2-1, in D2 final
(PHOTO COURTESY: MHSAA)
East Lansing – Everything spelled out ‘flair for the dramatic’ Saturday evening for Pontiac Notre Dame Prep.
The third-ranked Fighting Irish went deep into its well to squeak out its first girls soccer state title.
Notre Dame Prep scored in the final minute of regulation to force overtime. It dominated play throughout, used a third-string goalkeeper in a shootout and went eight players deep on penalty kicks before posting a dramatic 2-1 victory over unranked Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern in the Division 2 finals at Michigan State University’s DeMartin Soccer Complex.
The Fighting Irish outscored the Huskies 5-4 on penalty kicks, with junior Eilenn Haig recording a couple of saves in the shootout. Senior Rosella LaChirco, Notre Dame Prep’s final shooter, converted her penalty kick to end the contest some 160 minutes after kickoff.
“I tell you what, we played good enough to win and I thought we were always one foot away from scoring in regulation before that late goal. But we found a way to grind it out and win a state championships in a shootout. It’s unbelievable,” Notre Dame Prep coach Jim Stachura said. “What a way to end it. Eight kickers into the shootout.”
Haig hasn’t faced a penalty kick in three years since playing goalkeeper with her WAZA club team.
“When I went out there, I felt a calm come over me and I knew I had to do this for my team,” said Haig, who plays marking back for the Irish as a field player. “But I hadn’t faced a (penalty kick) in a few years now, not since I played goalie for my club team. That was at least three years ago.”
Notre Dame Prep junior Peyton Williams drilled a 19-yard free kick around the Huskies’ wall and just inside the far post with 41 seconds left. The play happened after a hand ball just outside of the box and Williams saw half of the net wide open before drilling the shot inside the far post.
It was her first goal of the season.
“It was an amazing (opportunity) as time was winding down and we came back and did it,” she said. “I saw that side of the net open and just hit it as hard as I could towards that side of the net. They gave me a lot of space on that side of the goal.”
Notre Dame Prep (21-1-3) was 7-1-3 against ranked opponents and found a stealer defensive side in Forest Hills Northern despite the Huskies never cracking the top 15. The Irish controlled play for over 90 percent of the game, holding a 15-8 shots edge, 8-3 with shots on frame.
The Irish even held a commanding 12-2 advantage on corner kicks yet had a difficult getting the ball past Northern junior goalkeeper Amanda Young (Michigan Tech) and sophomore center back Emily Ashby, a highly-touted player ranked amongst the top 50 sophomores in the country.
“I thought our defense, led by Emily Ashby, was outstanding, and I thought Amanda Young probably had her best game of the year in goal,” Northern coach Daniel Siminski said. “We didn’t have very many chances at all — we’re not built that way with a great attack. But I thought we played great defensively and almost held them off. We gave up a similar goal in the boys final last fall and wound up losing the same way. That’s high school soccer. We only have one senior and we hope to be back, but you never know.”
Forest Hills Northern scored on only its second shot on frame with 34:42 remaining in the second half. Ashby lofted a 50-yard through ball towards the box and junior Natalie Belsito ran through the defense and cashed in the shot for a 1-0 lead.
Young finished with seven saves, including three from point-blank range in regulation play, and also stopped a pair of kicks in the shootout for Forest Hills Northern.
Notre Dame Prep junior Haley Williams made two saves.