October 23rd, 2017

Assumption beats SHA in OT, advances to state finals

Block_eric thorne

Eric Thorne

Staff Writer

Assumption beats SHA in OT, advances to state finals
Assumption midfielder Lee Ann Gordon preparing to send the ball into play / photo by Eric Thorne

Like a good mind reader Erica Cooper knew just what teammate Ashley Willbur was thinking.

The Assumption senior darted toward the left side of the cage in a driving rain and slipped a shot past the goalkeeper with seven seconds left in overtime to defeat Sacred Heart and advance to the KHSAA State Championship game with a 2-1 victory Monday night at Christian Academy.

“That was so exciting to win it that way because Erica is a senior and so am I,” Willbur said. “We have been playing and going to school together since kindergarten at Greathouse Shryock and then Barrett so we’ve been together all these years, and there is no better way than that to end your senior year.”

With the extra period winding down and Sacred Heart (19-8) already down a player from yellow card on Sujin Kang the Valkyries Mary Kate Kessler picked up a yellow as well leaving Sacred Heart two players down.

Assumption (20-6) seized the opportunity and went on the attack.

With the ball on the left side Willbur saw Cooper break toward the goal and fed her a perfect pass that Cooper made good on.

 “Her sweeps are always very good, very strong and very accurate all the time,” said Cooper, a University of Louisville commit. “I saw Ashley with the ball and knew it was my time to hold out, wait for her to start the sweep and as she swept it I threw my stick in to get the touch and it went in the cage. I always know where the ball is going with her.”

While the Rockets celebrated it was frustration for Sacred Heart coach Eleanor Mitchell who begged for an explanation on the goal while her players were in tears behind her.

“We played our hearts out, and we couldn’t be prouder of them,” Mitchell said. “Kudos to Assumption for a good game, but our girls did everything they could. We came out a little nervous, but then settled down and played a really good game. They laid it all out there.”

Assumption coach Debbie Judd saw the advantage coming.

“I’m sorry but that was deserved those yellows because they do tackle from behind a lot and push. That takes us out of our game because we are more a finesse team,” Judd said.

Willbur, an Ohio University commit, staked the Rockets to an early lead when she swept in a shot off a corner from Izzy Porco just 77 seconds into the game. That would be the last shot Assumption would get till almost the end of regulation.

“Coach always tells us we need to get at least a corner if not a goal within the first two minutes and we were able to accomplish that, but knew we had to stay composed,” Willbur said. “We didn’t want to get too frantic and just play our game. Of course I’ll take a goal anyway I can get them.”

From there Sacred Heart went on the attack and the Rockets settled into a defensive mode. By the end of regulation the Valkyries had nine shots on goal to still one for Assumption.

“Coach told us we had to be intense because Sacred Heart always plays at a very high intensity and we put everything in it and we did score,” Cooper said. “Of course we scored and then sat back and thought we had that game thinking we just had to make it 60 minutes. I honestly think we sat back too much with the mindset ‘oh yeah we got this.”

The second half opened with a rain that got steadily harder and a brisk wind that played havoc keeping players on their feet and the ball in control.

“I think the adrenalin is pumping so sometimes you don’t realize the rain except when you are falling on your butt,” Willbur said. “We were sliding a lot, but we wanted to play for all of our students and for some people on our bench who can’t play. It’s a hard game especially a rivalry game.”

Assumption was playing without one of its star players Camryn Pichea. The University of Louisville commit, was injured against Ballard in the quarterfinals on Saturday.

“I think the girls really wanted to play for Camryn tonight and stand strong to take up her space because those are really big shoes to fill,” Assumption coach Debbie Judd said.

For Kessler, an Indiana University commit, the loss was tough to swallow, but nothing different than any other time the teams meet. It was the third time the Valkyries came up on the losing end to Assumption this year.

For the game Sacred Heart outshot the Rockets 10-4.

“Same ole, same ole game every time we play them, very intense battle,” Kessler said. “Anytime you give up an early goal it puts something in you, but you still have the entire game to come back and we did that. It’s hard to look at that shot statistic with the big difference we had. Its been a great run at Sacred Heart, and they taught me how much hard work can truly pay off for you.”

The game itself also didn’t surprise Judd.

“It’s always a crazy game with Sacred Heart, and we got the early goal but they adjusted and changed their defense,” Judd said. “They seemed to be on the attack more which I don’t like because I like to be the attacking team.”

 Sacred Heart was able to get the equalizing goal from Kang with 20:21 left in regulation when the senior poked in a rebound off a shot from Annie Wolford.

Assumption will try and repeat as state champions when they play Christian Academy (21-5-2) at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at CAL. The Centurions defeated Manual 2-0.

“I think we could have done a better job passing, but overall not too bad of a game and it is a win so that’s the most important thing,” Cooper said. “But, right now, I am beyond excited, especially being a senior because we want to get the ring one more time,”  


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