Although the LIberty Hawks footbal feild was in bad shape due to inclement weather and overuse, the Liberty girls soccer team battled it out with the San Joaquin Memorial-Fresno Panthers in a high scoring match.
Memorial, of the Country/Metro Conference, and Liberty needed overtime to find the winner of their non-conference clash with the Panthers scoring three in overtime for the win.
“It’s the stadium’s third game in as many days,” head coach Erick Walker said. “Our boys played on it the past two days and we get onto it and, of course, it starts raining. I think it had something to do with it, but at the same time they were in the same boat we were. I will tell you, looking at our field, it looks like it should after about a season’s worth of games.”
Despite the setback, Holly Strong and Brooke Wristen continued to power the Hawks with three combined goals.
“What hasn’t been said about those two,” Walker said. “They feed off each other in games and when Holly is in the middle and Brooke is up top, she just knows where Brooke is going to be on a run. Holly doesn’t even have to look, it’s just this connection that they have that’s just a 1-2 combo. Holly can receive it, play it and she knows Brooke is going to be making that run. It’s a great combination to have.”
The game opened up on even terms as the Panthers and Hawks struggled not only to gain an advantage over the other, but a foothold on the pitch.
“It was a little slippery out there and we had some trouble with some spots there,” Walker said.
Memorial grabbed a goal through Lauren Nidy in the 23rd minute, but thanks to the play of goalkeeper Sarah Shevenell, the 1-0 lead stayed put until the half.
Shevenell made numerous saves in Wednesday’s match, but none bigger than her courageous effort shortly after Memorial took the lead.
The junior goalkeeper left her line as a Panthers’ forward barreled into the penalty area, leaving the Hawks scrambling behind her. Luckily, Shevenell smothered the ball at the forward’s feet, a few yards from the net.
Her efforts in goal were highlighted once again in the final moments of the second half after Shevenell corralled a slippery shot directly at her. The ball swerved in the air, causing the ball to bounce out of her gloves, but still able to grab hold before Memorial capitalized on the slippery shot.
Memorial doubled their advantage just after the break, to make it 2-0, but the Hawks had other ideas.
Wristen got the Hawks on the board with a dazzling run and finish. Wristen took the ball in the opponent half and darted towards the Panther penalty area. The Panthers keeper came out to meet Wristen, but Wristen shot the ball low. It ricocheted off the keeper and into the back of the net.
With a comeback in sight, the Panthers pushed on the gas for a third goal. Memorial capitalized on a foul outside the penalty area and fired in a long-range freekick to take a 3-1 lead.
Liberty had an answer. Strong capitalized on being in the right place at the right time after she collected a deflected ball, turned and shot towards goal. The ball skipped off the grass and past the keeper’s outstretched hand for the goal.
Wristen lofted a shot over the Panthers’ keeper for the game-tying score.
“We had to talk and change our formation and make some adjustments off of how we were playing.” Walker said of a change after halftime. “We needed to speed up our play a little bit from what we had been, but it was mainly a formation change to kind of get them going. To kind of counteract what they were doing.”
The Hawks’ second half adjustments worked and sent the match into overtime but couldn’t carry over to the extra period.
Memorial blitzed the Hawks in the overtime period for three goals to end any chance at a comeback.