October 21st, 2010

SHA Wins Comeback Thriller 3-2

Chris Jung

Senior Writer

SHA Wins Comeback Thriller 3-2
photo by Chris Jung

Valkyries win regional championship with 3-2 victory

With 17 minutes to go in Wednesday's 7th Region Tournament championship game, the idea of a girls soccer state championship four-peat seemed to be slipping away for Sacred Heart Academy.

Down 2-0 to rival Assumption High School, the Valkyries were playing tighter and tighter with the clock's tick of every second and the Rockets were running the field with the confidence and swagger of a team that seemed ready to pull the upset and take SHA's traditional spot as Region 7 representative in the state tournament.

That's when Kelsey Malyszek and her powerful leg stepped in to lead the comeback charge - a charge that would eventually lead to a 3-2 Sacred Heart victory.

Following a dangerous play call and an indirect free kick for SHA, Malyszek took a nudge pass from junior Andrea Distler and ripped a 20-foot blast that wrapped around Rockets' goalkeeper Katie Jones and into the net for the Valkyries' first goal with 16:29 to go in the game. Then, less than a minute later, freshman forward Caroline Wistrom found some open space about 15 feet away from the net and launched a left-footed bullet over the head of Jones for a goal, tying the game at 2-2 and sending the Sacred Heart sideline into a frenzy.

With the game back to all square and a shot at staying alive in the postseason on the line, both teams aggressively battled and traded long balls on a windy night at Sacred Heart field. The Valkyries and Rockets ran up and down the field with reckless abandon until junior defender Mary Kate Schmidt went down with an injury, which allowed the squads to regroup and hydrate near the sideline as trainers attended to Schmidt.

Play resumed shortly thereafter and it seemed that the thrilling game that was taking place would undoubtedly end in overtime, or possibly penalty kicks, but junior midfielder Sara Herbert wasn't prepared to risk having the regional championship game go beyond regulation. So she decided to complete an unbelievable comeback for her team instead.

With 1:19 to go in the game, the right-footed Herbert got free in the middle of the field and lobbed a left-footed rainbow shot over the head of Assumption's Jones - a goal that seemed to move in slow motion as it found the back of the net. Herbert was quickly and loudly surrounded by her teammates, as the Valkyries attempted to comprehend what had just happened: three goals in 15 minutes over a rival school in the team's biggest game of the year.

As for Herbert, the composed junior said after the game that she only had one other game-winning goal in her soccer career, which came during a game against duPont Manual High School last season. So where did this one rank between the two?

"This one was definitely bigger," said a smiling Herbert.

She went on to discuss how her team managed to hang tough and win the game.

"That was a really good game and (Assumption) is a really good team," said Herbert. " We couldn't give up once, because we knew they weren't going to give it to us. Again, they have a really good team."

Assumption, who lost to Sacred Heart three times during the regular season (4-0 on Aug. 29, 2-1 on Sept. 16 at the Lexington Catholic Lady Knights Challenge Cup, and 3-0 in last week's 13th District championship game), put on an extraordinary display during Wednesday's game. They were quick to the ball and seemed to have a step on every ball they challenged against the three-time defending state champion Valkyries.

The Rockets built their initial lead after they scored with 6:59 to go in the first half. Off a curving corner kick, and following a bouncing ball in front of SHA goalkeeper Maddie Peabody, Assumption's Heather Schmidt made contact and pushed the ball into the net for a 1-0 Assumption halftime lead. At the 24:11 mark in the second half, Morgan Riggs slipped into the goal box unguarded, and Camille Ogden found her with a perfect pass that Riggs slammed into the net for a surprising 2-0 lead. But it wasn't enough.

Assumption's Jones had 13 saves in the losing effort, while her counterpart Peabody had seven. Following the game, seven members of SHA and AHS were named to the All-Region Tournament Team. The Valkyries were Andrea Distler, Kelsey Malyszek, Lucy Chauvin, Sara Herbert. The Rockets on the team were Heather Schmidt, Christen McCallister, and Morgan Riggs.

Sacred Heart has now beaten Assumption in the past five regional championship games and will go for its fourth consecutive state title when postseason play continues next week.


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