SOUTH BEND – Bishop Dwenger senior goalkeeper Cecilia Garrett said she didn't want to game to end in penalty kicks. Saints coach James Ewing said penalty kicks were no way for an epic playoff battle to be decided.
And yet the Saints are going to the state championship game because of penalty kicks.
When the Class 2A semistate soccer match between Bishop Dwenger (12-4-1) and Mishawaka Marian (16-5-2) went into PKs after 94 minutes of scoreless play, Ewing asked his players who wanted a shot, seven hands shot into the air.
"We've been working on penalty shots all week, and working on who is ready to shoot them," Ewing said. "We knew right away their confidence was up, and having Cecilia start with that first save really set the tone for the rest of the shootout, it really did."
Garrett was the first to take her turn in the net, and she dove to her right to block the first attempt by Marian's Regan Burns. Mary Rice and Grace Weaver sent the Knights' next two attempts over the crossbar, while Ellen Hartzog and Ava Slater made Bishop Dwenger's first two attempts.
McKenna Kleinrichert took the third shot for the Saints and pulled it to the right, giving the Knights another shot to remain alive, and Marian's Addyson Slagh responded with the Knights' only make of the penalty shootout.
Bishop Dwenger junior Erynn Burns followed, knowing that a goal would clinch a win in the best-of-five shootout. Her shoot was low, just barely clearing the artificial turf at St. Joseph's stadium, but it skittered into the goal to send the Saints to the state championship game for the third time in school history and the first time since 2006.
"It was a lot of pressure, and I didn't want to let my team down, but they were encouraging and I knew they had faith in me, so that helps a lot," Garrett said of playing goal in such a tense game. "It's unreal, we've worked so hard, we've gone through adversity and everything, so to finally pull through, it's just great."
During the 80 minutes of regulation and 14 minutes of overtime, almost all of it played in a cold, blustery rain, the teams were evenly matched, but neither ever seemed poised to break through. In the 24th minute, Marian’s Grace Weaver was awarded a free kick, but she hit it right into the wall of defenders. She got another shot off the ricochet, this time clearing what was left of the wall, but Garrett caught the ball in the air.
"It was very tense, because we're both such good teams," Burns said. "There was a lot of stress going on throughout the entire game, because it was going to come down to the first person who made a mistake."
But those mistakes remained few and far between on the pitch, and Ewing said the teams were remarkably well-matched.
"You saw that game was played between the 20s, there was really no advantage for either team," Ewing said, referring to the football yard lines on the multipurpose field. "I'd like to see how many shots on goal there were; there were a handful or less for each team."
The Saints will face Evansville Mater Dei (15-5-2) in the state final at Fishers on Friday or Saturday. Mater Dei advanced by beating South Dearborn 2-0 at Evansville North on Saturday. The day and time of the match will be announced today.