Flanked by seniors Emily Hester and Tori Hanway, National Cathedral goalkeeper Erica Sanders lagged behind the rest of the Eagles as they walked off the field following overtime of Sunday’s Independent School League AA soccer final at Episcopal.
Before the penalty shootout against Georgetown Visitation, the captains wanted to let Sanders, a freshman, know they appreciated her hard work this season and trusted her heading into the high-pressure tie-breaker.
“It was nice knowing it wasn’t so intense for them,” Sanders said. “They were going to be okay either way, but honestly, I was still freaking out.”
Sanders proved ready for the moment, catching Visitation’s eighth-round attempt to deliver National Cathedral the tournament title. After the teams were tied at 1 through 90 minutes, the Eagles beat the Cubs, 7-6, in the shootout.
National Cathedral had lost three straight ISL AA finals, including last season on penalty kicks to Georgetown Visitation, but this time, the Eagles connected on seven of eight attempts with junior Hallie Horvath’s left-footed blast proving to be the game-winner.
“We’ve been in the championship every year, and at the end it was always taken away from us,” said Hanway, who made her penalty kick in the sixth round. “This year we didn’t want it to happen again.”
National Cathedral (13-2-2) needed some late heroics to extend the game. Georgetown Visitation (10-6-2) took a 1-0 lead on sophomore Taylor Kirchgessner’s 33rd-minute goal and held the advantage into the final two minutes of regulation.
With another title slipping away, sophomore Rubii Tamen chased down a deflected ball inside the 18-yard box. The team’s leading scorer managed to direct a sliding shot into the far corner of the net with 1:40 left.
Georgetown Visitation — which upset regular season champion Sidwell Friends on Friday — managed to get the game to penalty kicks short-handed after a player received a red card for a dangerous challenge in the second overtime period.
In the shootout, National Cathedral failed to convert a fifth-round attempt that would’ve won it, and Sanders had three chances to end the game with a save before she finally corralled the eighth-round attempt. After the play, first-year Coach Danielle Malagari reached Sanders first on a sprint, wrapping the goalkeeper in a hug.
“It sounds really cheesy, but I really felt that I was gonna save that,” Sanders said. “I knew the seniors needed this. . . . This is their year, and I wanted to save it so bad for them.”
National Cathedral will also have a chance to add another title as it is participating in the inaugural DCSAA soccer tournament, an eight-team event featuring public and private schools that begins Monday.
Stone Ridge takes ISL A title in shootout
Diving to smother a penalty kick during the shootout that would decide Sunday’s ISL A soccer final, Stone Ridge goalkeeper Brigid Carey wasn’t certain if she’d kept the ball from crossing the goal line. Only the wall of jubilant teammates sprinting toward her after the play let her know the game was over.
Carey stopped three attempts in the 3-2 shootout victory over St. Andrew’s that clinched the Gators second tournament title in three years. The teams went scoreless in regulation and two five-minute overtime periods.
“It was just a rush of emotions,” Carey said of the final save. “I can’t even explain it. . . . I wasn’t sure where the ball was, what I was doing. I didn’t know anything.”
Both teams had plenty of opportunities to score the breakthrough goal, but neither Stone Ridge (9-7-1) nor St. Andrew’s (11-7-1) could capitalize with Carey (three saves) and St. Andrew’s junior Rachel Daniels (seven saves) keeping the ball out of the net.
Seniors Ana Bengoechea, Sophia DiBari and Taylor Haist converted kicks for the Gators in the shootout, and Carey made sure that was enough to celebrate the victory.
“I told her, ‘Just be a hero,’ ” said first-year Coach Kati Jo Spisak. “You’re not expected to make any saves [in a shootout] as a goalkeeper, so it’s a time to be the hero. She definitely was.”
Stone Ridge — which started five freshmen in Sunday’s game — played in the ISL AA last fall and would earn promotion back to the top division if Bullis loses to Holy Child in Monday’s makeup game. If the Bulldogs win or tie, they will take the regular season title and the promotion.