By Jeff Keeling
They had dominated possession and unleashed shot after shot, but with two minutes left in overtime, the University High Junior Lady Bucs appeared to be headed toward a penalty kick shootout with Elizabethton in Thursday’s district championship game.
Then, sophomore forward Sarah Robinson found herself just outside the top of the penalty box with the ball on her foot once again and several Cyclone defenders closing on her. The left-footer made a couple of quick moves before unleashing a low, curling shot from the 18-yard line that barely missed a Cyclone Linda Espino’s shinguard and rocketed into the back of the net inside the left post.
The goal gave University High (12-1-1) a 1-0 win.
The late heroics negated a bevy of missed opportunities – Robinson’s shot was the team’s 20th, compared to two for Elizabethton – lifting UH to the conference title and a home date against Chuckey-Doak Tuesday night. A win at Civitan Park (the game occurred after News and Neighbor press time) would guarantee the first substate appearance in the team’s history.
“I told my forwards, even if you miss the first 18 you keep shooting and something good’s going to happen,” Coach Dan Almond said after the game.
“I’m confident in all my forwards,” Almond added.
“Sarah’s been a real asset to us this year and obviously she has a killer sense for finishing. I shifted her over to the middle right at the end, and thankfully it worked out well.”
Almond said he didn’t want the game to go to a shootout. Elizabethton goalkeeper Loran Campbell had six saves and had saved a goal in a shootout win against Sullivan South two nights earlier. “I told the ladies, ‘we’re not playing for penalties, we’re playing to win,’” Almond said.