Dramatically and easily: Rangers, Pats advance

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Forest Park’s Madison Knies, left, Megan Grundhoefer, Mady Grundhoefer and Rachel Lueken celebrated as the Rangers converted a penalty kick against North Harrison in the Class 1A girls soccer sectional Thursday in Bretzville. Forest Park won 3-2 in sudden-death penalty kicks, advancing to Saturday’s championship against Heritage Hills, which defeated Salem 2-0 in the night’s other semifinal. For a gallery of photos from the Forest Park vs. North Harrison match, click here. For a gallery of photos from the Heritage HIlls vs. Salem match, click here.

Herald Sports Writer

BRETZVILLE — Amanda Gogel kept telling herself, “It can’t happen again.”

It can’t happen like it did in 2004, when she lost in sudden-death penalty kicks to Washington in the sectional her senior year at Forest Park.

It can’t happen like it did last season, when the Rangers lost in sudden-death penalty kicks to Heritage Hills in the sectional championship.


Thankfully for the first-year head coach, Amanda Jacob held similar intentions.

Twice during a stirring soccer sectional semifinal in which spectators came to expect the unexpected, Jacob pulled Forest Park from the brink of elimination, allowing the Rangers to endure 3-2 over North Harrison after six rounds of penalty kicks late Thursday night in Bretzville.

Trailing by a goal with 70 seconds remaining in the second overtime, Jacob sent a 30-yard delivery into the net, tying the match and salvaging what appeared to be the final ticks of the Ranger season.

Minutes later, she calmly buried her penalty kick after the three preceding Ranger kick takers had all missed. The goal started a streak of three straight conversions that sealed the comeback for Forest Park.

“It brought back tons of memories,” Gogel said. “And it ended well this time.”

The match had more plot twists than an average mystery novel, and the end result remained comparably unpredictable.

Jacob’s first-half rebound finish remained the contest’s lone tally through the first 76 minutes in regulation. But the Rangers continually squandered scoring chances, leaving the door open for the Lady Cats’ Shelby Austin to loft in a cross from an unfathomable angle that found the goal’s side netting on one hop.

“At halftime, we were constantly saying, ‘We need to put another one in, we need some security,’ and we didn’t do that and we didn’t get the security that we needed,” Jacob said. “So when they punched that first goal in, it was kind of like, ‘Oh, God, we’ve got to step it up.’”

Two minutes into the first overtime and with Forest Park still seeming a bit shaken from surrendering the lead, Austin delivered again, by way of a 35-yard set piece that carried over the goalkeeper’s outstretched hands, giving North Harrison a one-goal advantage.

Refusing to relent, the Rangers amplified the pressure in the match’s waning minutes. And Jacob struck again, leading the Rangers with a chance to exorcise its past demon: the penalty-kick shootout.

The Rangers remained scoreless through three rounds of shots, putting just one on frame. Yet consecutive finishes by Jacob, Rachel Lueken and Kendall Sherman set the stage for goalkeeper Tabitha Steckler, who tipped the Lady Cats’ sixth and final attempt off the crossbar.

In an undeniably emotional contest, perseverance shined through, Gogel said.

“For them to come back and tie it, and then win in the PKs, shows a lot of the girls,” she said. “I know some of the girls were already teary-eyed at the end of regulation time. (I said), ‘Listen up, we’ve got 14 minutes left. This is it. Fourteen minutes. Take those tears off.’ … They all pulled together.”

Steckler made three saves in the six-round shootout, including a dive that kept it a one-goal Lady Cat advantage before Jacob stepped up for her shot.

“I was praying the whole time back there,” Steckler said. “I just had to stop the ball. The seniors, they’ve been trying for this forever, so I had to get it for them.”

“Tabby did awesome in the (penalty kicks),” Gogel said. “In the whole game, she did really well.”

Though the victory proved more difficult than Gogel had anticipated, it set up an anticipated rematch of last year’s finale with Heritage Hills, which knocked off Salem 2-0 in Thursday’s first contest.

Breigh Haase and Greer Neff each lended first-half scores for the Patriots, who became somewhat complacent in the second period, Heritage Hills forward Karaline Staggs said.

“I think tonight could have been a night where we learn to put passes together, and we didn’t really do that,” Staggs said. “We weren’t energized. I think they wanted it more than us. We should have wanted it more.”

Staggs scored all three goals for Heritage Hills in its 3-1 win over Forest Park on Aug. 28, and said capitalizing when they have possession will be vital for the Patriots on Saturday against a Ranger side she anticipates will hold the ball the majority of the game.

Heritage Hills coach Doug Satterfield watched the tape of his team’s sectional bout with the Rangers earlier this week. And though “it was still fun a year past,” he doesn’t expect too much deviation from the parity of last October.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if it was like last year, with extra time and penalty kicks,” Satterfield said, somewhat prophetically before Forest Park’s semifinal. “I hope not.”

For Jacob, the Thursday roller coaster grants the Rangers a chance at revenge this weekend. She just hopes it can be decided more conventionally.

“We want to beat them. Which of course, they want to beat us, too,” she said. “We want to win sectional, but I think a lot of it comes from last year’s sectional, losing to them in the championship. It’s going to hopefully give us a little more spark than they’ll have.

“Hopefully, we’ll come out on Saturday playing the best we’ve played all year and stick through it for 80 minutes. Eighty minutes.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.

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