BY PEDRO VELAZCO KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — With the sun deep and orange near the horizon and opportunity fading almost as quickly, Western’s girls soccer team responded in the best possible way.
Spurred by a renewed sense of urgency, Western scored twice in the second overtime to take a 4-2 victory at Northwestern in a rivalry game that mattered to both in the Mid-Indiana Conference standings.
“I liked the way that we came out with fire and we wanted it so bad,” Western coach Nicole Jackson said of the overtime session. “We’ve lost to Northwestern pretty close these last couple years and my seniors wanted it really bad. We wanted to get this overtime in before it got dark or before it stormed again.”
The game was delayed 35 minutes due to a thunderclap in the area less than two minutes into the start of the first overtime session.
Western improved to 7-3 overall and 4-1 in the Mid-Indiana Conference. The Panthers knotted the game up late in the second half to end regulation 2-2. When the delay hit early in overtime, both teams came out a little sluggish. Western got up to game speed more quickly.
The first seven-minute overtime session didn’t have any genuine threats on goal, but the second started with a bang as Western’s Courtney Pitzer forced a save and Sarah Connolly saw a good opportunity slide wide of the right post.
The breakthrough came in the 90th minute, with just four minutes left in the game. Panther freshman midfielder Emma Harbaugh set Abby Webster free on the right side. Webster’s hard low shot to the far post was saved by Tiger netminder Chloe Redman but the rebound fell invitingly to Connolly to score at close range.
“We play a little scared traditionally against Northwestern,” Jackson said. “I think we try to play defense more than we do offense. And I think once they realized that first seven-minute overtime was done and they had to finish it off, they wanted it.”
Three minutes later during a frenetic late spell as the Purple Tigers tried to get an equalizer, Western sealed the game with a goal 41 seconds before the final whistle. Western’s Chassidy Lenn intercepted a ball at the left edge of Western’s attacking third of the field and passed to Connolly, who shuffled a pass to Webster, who was open at the top of the 18-yard box. Webster blasted through Redman for an insurance goal.
“They had good fire at the end,” Northwestern coach Samantha Elkins said of Western. The Purple Tigers fell to 4-5 overall, and 1-2 in the MIC.
The Panthers had most of the early possession and opened the scoring in the eighth minute when Holly Granfield slotted a good pass to Connolly, who was slicing into the center and took the ball in stride to control and score.
Northwestern equalized in the 16th minute when Korey Price intercepted a ball in deep and slipped a short pass to Michaela Bennett who scored on a high shot over Panther goalie Cybil Johnson. The Purple Tigers took the lead in the 39th minute when Price banged home a loose ball after a Tiger corner kick to give her side the advantage just before halftime.
The Panthers forced overtime with a goal in the 69th minute. Webster dug a ball free in a scramble in the box and fed Connolly right in front of goal to knot regulation at 2-2.
“It was a well-played game for both teams,” Elkins said. “The aggression was pretty intense.”
Northwestern’s Redman had 11 saves. Western’s Johnson had nine.
“I’m really proud of the seniors and proud of how everyone was really positive and really motivated each other,” Jackson said. “I think this was the first game every single player played as a team and not as an individual.”
FINAL - 2 OT Western 4 Northwestern 2