The conclusion to Monday afternoon’s district semifinal between Marshfield and Hillcrest was something of a repeat scenario from minutes earlier.
This time around, Marshfield, owner of numerous chances beforehand, made it count.
With just under two minutes left in regulation and the match tied 1-1, Lady Jays freshman Calli Watson uncorked a shot from 15 yards that produced a solid save from Hillcrest senior goalkeeper Halle Pyle, and Marshfield senior Baylee Hayes, faced with a narrow angle within six yards, couldn’t put a follow-up inside the posts.
A redemption effort came not long into the first 15-minute overtime period. Reagan Smith played a ball from the center of the pitch to Hayes, who had beaten her marker on the left wing. Though she was eventually met by a Hillcrest defender, this time when she was in close proximity but wide of the goalmouth, she found a cut-back option in freshman Sydney Strain, whose right-footed attempt from inside 10 yards splashed the back of the net with 9:23 remaining to confirm passage into the Class 3 District 11 title game.
On the first try, Hayes said, “I think that gave me hope, getting in front of the goal, and that’s what I did with that last ball, got it in front, and we made the shot.”
It’s little smoke-and-mirrors as the process goes for the speedy Hayes to beat her defenders, except maybe in her own mind.
“When that happens, I just kind of black out,” Hayes said of being in the clear. “It’s all mind-on-the-goal, you’ve got to make a goal, but being this is my first year, [using my speed is] my main strategy [laughs].”
For the Lady Jays, it was another timely contribution from a freshman this season.
“I was just there,” Strain said. “I was looking over [at Baylee]...I always look for the open spaces, and it just like, opened, and I shot it. We just kept working for it, and I knew we’d probably make [the chance that would win it.”
Hayes earned the penalty that one of those freshman, leading goalscorer Calli Watson put away, while a scrum at the back accounted for the Vikings’ goal in a match that was originally slated to be played at Willard, but earlier in the morning was moved to Parkview High School and bumped up from 4 p.m. to a 2:30 kickoff.
Marshfield head coach Paul Lewis had plenty of praise for Pyle’s effort in net for Parkview. “Give all the shout-outs to their keeper; she’s very good and kept them in the game,” he said.
“I’m happy with our girls’ resilience, but we need to take better care of our opportunities and chances when we get them.”
There were numerous other chances for an earlier match-winner as regulation wore on. Watson turned and a left-footed shot was finessed roughly a foot over the bar with 20 minutes left. Another 10 minutes later, Smith outran her marker but her shot was directed right into the midsection of Pyle.
Now, the only opportunity that matters is the one for the Lady Jays to play for their first district championship in program history in a year thought to potentially be a rebuilding one.
“If we win, it’d be our first district championship and that would be awesome,” Lewis said. “To be 17-7, it’s unfathomable, but the girls have come through when they’ve had to.”
Marshfield is slated to play Willard (9-14) at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The Lady Tigers defeated Parkview 3-0 later Monday in the other semifinal.