Homer – Sunday’s Class D girls soccer title game was a rematch of last year’s showdown between Wheatland-Chili and Poland. Like in 2016, W-C controlled play and came away a winner. But the 2017 game at Homer High School was more dramatic.
Travina Meeks scored 23 seconds into the third overtime period to give the Wildcats a 3-2 victory before more than 700 fans. The goal ruined a gallant effort by Poland against a foe that had an 18-9 edge in shots and a 14-1 advantage in corner kicks.
“That team was stronger, faster and more athletic,” Tornadoes coach Tom Basel said moments after his team fell in the first sudden victory OT session.
With 2016 state player of the year Hannah Callaghan controlling the midfield, W-C (20-1-1) took control from the start. Niyah Rosado gave the Poland defense fits with runs on the wings as well, and the rest of the Wildcats just passed and trapped better to keep Poland without a shot on goal for 36 minutes. By then, W-C was ahead 1-0 on a great 30-yard shot from Lindsey Clar. It came in the 18th minute and floated just over Poland’s standout goalie Claire Lepper. It settled just under the crossbar.
At that point the score should have been 2-0 or 3-0. But Lepper made dramatic saves on shots by Meeks and Jenna LaMere. They were just a sampling of what the senior would do all game, and it kept Poland (20-3) within striking distance.
So did Lepper’s diving save on a shot by W-C’s Cassie Parker in the 43rd minute. That served as a springboard for Poland to get some momentum and Keara Blumenstock had a good run minutes later that put pressure on W-C goalie Katherine Vonglis. The W-C keeper made the save, but in the 50th minute she had a direct kick by Poland’s Mackensie Gokey go off her hands and in.
It stayed a 1-1 game the rest of regulation, but both teams had chances. Poland’s came first when Carliza Roark missed a left-footed shot with the goal open.
In the 55th minute, sweeper Jamie Weakley stopped a great chance by W-C’s Niyah Rosado.
Coach Gary Ward’s Wildcats team forced Lepper to make perhaps the game’s best save in the 66th minute. Rosado set up Hannah Callaghan for a shot, but Lepper made a diving stop. Riley Wisheart had a shot late in regulation for Poland, but Vonglis stopped it easily and the teams went to OT.
Leah Basel kept Poland even by making a great defensive play against Clar midway in the first OT period. But W-C regained the lead two minutes later when Hannah Callaghan had a perfectly placed shot from the right side. It went over the well-positioned Lepper and fell just inside the upper left corner.
The senior was fortunate to still be in the game at that point. Earlier, she had a yellow card and moments before her goal she fouled a Poland player and kicked the ball away. The head official spoke with her but did not issue a second yellow card.
Still, Poland evened things in the early minutes of the second OT session. Vonglis misjudged a ball near the top of the 18 and stumbled slightly. That left eighth grader Alexis Bates open to score the tying goal. Bates had a chance for the lead in the 76th minute but shot high.
Poland kept the pressure on with a shot by Wisheart and a superb corner kick by Jordyn Squire. The W-C defense cleared it, though, and the game went into a third OT.
This time it was a sudden victory period and that’s exactly what happened. Poland had the kickoff but lost control in the first few seconds. W-C countered with a quick play and Rosado sent a great pass to Meeks who beat Lepper from close range just 23 seconds into the period.
“I thought we had it at 2-1,” Ward said. “But they kept pressuring. But we tell the girls don’t worry when a team scores.”
The Wildcats didn’t and they won the title outright as a result.
“They were a tough team,” Lepper said afterward. “But everybody gave a 110 percent effort.”
W-C (20-1-1): Lindsey CLar 1-0, Hannah Callaghan 1-0, Travina Meeks 1-0, Niyah Rosado 0-1. Saves – Katherine Vonglis 7.
Poland (20-3): Mackensie Gokey 1-0, Alexis Bates 1-0. Saves – Claire Lepper 21.