When two highly skilled and equally talented teams meet in soccer, goals usually come at a premium. Wednesday evening, the North Platte and Lincoln Southwest girls met on Bauer Field in North Platte to settle the A-5 District champion, and a trip to the Nebraska State Soccer Tournament.
The Lady Bulldogs (14-3) and Silverhawks (13-5) battled through 100 minutes of scoreless action, as both teams had stretches of an offensive presence, but neither could find the back of the net. But in the shootout, the Lady Silverhawks were able to outscore North Platte 4-2, and earn the 1-0 win, and an automatic berth in this year’s state tournament.
At the conclusion of the game, Lincoln Southwest coach Thomas Nettleton reflected on the contest.
“Not a lot of control in the game, it was a very fast-paced game,” Nettleton said. “They’ve got a lot of heart — both teams. You go 100 minutes, that’s a lot of time on the field. And credit to North Platte, that’s super stuff, they were really good.”
The Lady Silverhawks went first in the shootout, and Megan McCashland found the lower right corner for the 1-0 lead. North Platte’s Breezy Jahnke kept the Lady Bulldogs fortunes alive by hitting the top left corner for a 1-1 tie.
Kasha Meyer of Southwest and North Platte’s Natalie Poppe each found the right side open, and the score was knotted at two.
North Platte keeper Jackie Paloucek guessed left on Southwest’s third attempt, but Lincoln’s Abby Meader shot right to put the Lady Silverhawks up 3-2.
Karissa Moreland then missed wide left for the Lady Bulldogs, keeping the score at 3-2.
Lincoln’s Vanessa Kavan would miss high, but Madalynn Doughty would also miss wide left for North Platte. Southwest’s Baleigh Miller ended the game hitting the lower right corner for the 4-2 shootout win.
“I put girls out there I believe in,” said North Platte coach Sarah Kaminski. “Those girls have been the same five shooters in every shootout we have had, regardless if they make or miss it.
“I just believe in them. Some days you’re on and some days you’re not. That’s the hard thing in a shootout.”
Lincoln Southwest evened their shootout record for the season with the win of Wednesday.
“Lincoln East was our only shootout in our second game,” said Nettleton. “We dropped that one, so we are 1-1 in shootouts now.
“We just ask our goalkeeper to get one. She has to make a save. Megan [Hastings] is a very confident player.
“It’s kind of like a free throw. It should be a high percentage shot. You’ve got to have the presence of mind to be calm and just take care of business.”
A little over 2 minutes into the game, Southwest’s Miller missed high on a shot that saw Paloucek go down after coming out to make a save. Shortly after, North Platte’s Doughty shot from the right side, but missed wide left. That seemed to be the theme the remainder of the game, with each team dominating offensively at times, but unable to score.
“That’s just the ebb and flow of the game,” Nettleton said. “Sometimes you just have to make sure you take care of it. You take the initiative early on, and then you can coast in the match — and it just didn’t happen.
“We missed our opportunities early, but North Platte is very good. They are very competitive, a team that knows they’re not going to lose. They’re not going to lose very often. They did an awesome job.”
“I would not want to play against our defenders,” Kaminski said. “They have so much heart.
“Their soccer skill is amazing with two of them going on to play at the collegiate level. They set a precedence and a role that everyone wants to follow.”
At press time, it appears a Kearney loss to Omaha Westside in the A4 district on Thursday might give the Lady Bulldogs a wild-card appearance at the state tournament.
“I still believe what I have believed about these girls all along,” Kaminski said. “They’re amazing, they do what they need to do, and they have made a legacy here at North Platte High School. I don’t believe our journey is over yet.
“I feel in my heart — we’re not done playing soccer this year. This is a team we are gong to remember for years and years to come.”