Penalty kicks knock out Franklin Regional girls soccer
Kicks from the penalty spot are sometimes referred to as a lottery that determines which team advances in a soccer tournament.
But after battling evenly for 110 minutes with the No. 3 seed, Franklin Regional's girls soccer team didn't have the winning ticket.
Franklin Regional went the distance tied 1-1 with a one-loss Bethel Park team, but the host Black Hawks moved on with a 4-3 win on the sixth kick of a shootout in the WPIAL Class AAA first round on Saturday.
The Black Hawks (18-1-0) advanced to face Norwin in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, after this edition's deadline.
Franklin Regional's season ends with an 11-8-0 record.
“We definitely tried our all. There's nothing more we could have done,” said junior Cassidy LeDonne, who scored FR's goal in regulation.
In the shootout, Franklin Regional took a 3-1 lead on goals by Jackie Cepicka, Melanie Renda and Beth Kozuch, while only LeDonne missed, shooting high.
Only Alexis Keibler converted out of Bethel Park's first three kicks, which included a great save to her left by FR's Kristen Moore to stop A.J. Baroffio, the Black Hawks' goal scorer in regulation.
Needing to convert to extend the shootout, Halle Hammer fired a hard shot to Moore's left. The FR keeper got a hand to the ball but couldn't stop the ball from reaching the side netting.
“She just hit it hard enough and to the right spot where you can't fully extend your arm,” Moore said. “It was a good kick.”
Haley Zeliff kicked fifth with a chance to win it for the Panthers, but Bethel's Alycia Jimenez made the stop to her right.
Lauren Toth converted for Bethel Park to send the shootout to a sixth kick, and Jimenez made a second straight save to deny FR's Hannah Smith despite protests from the Panthers players that Jimenez left her line early.
That brought up Sarah Buczkowski for the Black Hawks, and the junior converted with a shot low and to her left.
The disappointment was evident on the faces of many of the Franklin Regional players after the game, but there also was a moment to reflect on the successes had by a team with only five seniors on its entire roster.
“We had a little trouble at the beginning because it was mostly young players, and we had to get used to playing with them,” said Moore, one of the five seniors.
“Once we really got to playing together, we really worked well and we tried hard. A lot of people thought we would lose this game today easily, but we ended up losing in the last minute.”
Even overtime seemed out of reach for a good portion of Saturday's game, as Bethel Park took a 1-0 lead in the 21st minute.
Keibler attempted a shot that was blocked in front of the Franklin Regional goal, but the loose ball popped over to Baroffio on the left side of the goal.
Baroffio's first rebound attempt was also blocked by the defense, but she was able to chase down the loose ball and poke it past Moore and into the right side of the net.
Bethel Park had the majority of the chances against a defensive-minded FR team that played much of the game with Renda alone up top as a holding forward.
As the game moved into its final 10 minutes, the Panthers pushed forward more and it paid off.
Katie Kimmich's run toward the top of the box drew a foul from the Bethel defense and gave LeDonne a free kick opportunity just 25 yards from goal. The FR junior put a high shot on net that forced Jimenez to punch the ball over the bar.
On the ensuing corner kick, Zeliff swung the ball into the 6-yard box from the lef, where LeDonne headed the ball past Jimenez into the near side of the goal.
“(The defender) was marking me tight, and I just faked one way and went straight for the goal,” LeDonne said.
“One of their players got a tip on it, which threw me off a little, but I was able to get full power into it and it went into the goal.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.