Penalty kicks doom Carson girls

Courtesy of Robert Bowman / www.bowmanlifestudios.Carson’s Michelle Sandage is defended by a Green Valley player during Friday’s state semifinal game in Henderson.

Courtesy of Robert Bowman / www.bowmanlifestudios.Carson’s Michelle Sandage is defended by a Green Valley player during Friday’s state semifinal game in Henderson.

HENDERSON — Simply put, it was a game you hated to see either team lose, and it was a game that lived up to its pre-game hype.The scrappy Carson Senators, a definite underdog, battled co-tournament favorite Green Valley on even terms for 80 minutes and two 15-minute overtime periods.Then came the shootout, and Green Valley converted all four of its opportunities, while the Carson girls managed to make just three of five, which handed the Gators a 2-1 win in the NIAA Division I state semifinals Friday night at Heritage Park.Carson ends its first season under Greg Lehman with a 16-2-2 record. Green Valley plays Arbor View at noon today for the title.Though disappointed with the final outcome, Lehman was happy with how his team performed.“All I learned from the kids and how we persevered,” he said. “How they fought through adversity and the camaraderie they had. It was outstanding.”Senior defender Shannon Flaherty, whose play at center defender was critical to the team’s success, agreed.“I’m very happy with the season,” Flaherty said. “It’s the first time they have had a true state tournament, and we made it. We proved a lot of people wrong this year including our coaches. We learned to work together.”Nobody wanted to see the game end this way, but the way these titans were going at it, they could have played until sundown.In penalty kicks, Carson’s Alissa Hayes went first for Carson, and her shot went off the crossbar. Nicole Westover converted for GV, putting Carson in a quick hole.Emmy Heller, who has made a career stopping shots, converted her kick to knot it at 1. Kayla Anderson, the Gators’ leading scorer, scored on a shot to the right side to make it 2-1.Jaime Perez put one in the left corner to make it 2-2, but Cayla Imahara, who scored the Gators’ goal in the 21st minute, drilled one into the right corner to make it 3-2. Carson’s Kiahna Pimental came through to make it 3-3, but Green Valley’s Lauren Aronson converted for a 4-3 lead.Kenzie Tillitt, who earlier converted a PK after Danielle Sandage was taken out by GV keeper Nicole Dunn, misfired on her attempt to end the match.“We talked about who would be kicking,” said Lehman, who also said his team works on PKs during practice. “We don’t decide the rotation per se, we put them where they feel the most comfortable. The biggest thing is having them feel comfortable.“Carson was just as good as this team (Green Valley). Green Valley was a good team. They had to be to go 18-0-1.”The first half was a defensive struggle interrupted only by Imahara’s goal in the 21st minute.In the 57th minute, Danielle Sandage was taken down by Dunn trying to get to a teammate’s pass. Tillitt was chosen for the PK, and she easily converted the shot to tie the match at 1.“I wasn’t surprised the call was made,” Lehman. “The keeper took her out. Danielle made a great run on the play.” Neither team was able to break the tie in the final 23 minutes of regulation, though both had opportunities.Carson, led by Flaherty, Bailie Zuber, Hayes, Jaime King, Lindy Lehman and Katherine Leist were just as impressive as the Gators’ defense which allowed only four goals all year.From an offensive point of view, Green Valley dominated both overtimes. Though the Gators only got off a couple shots on goal in the next 30 minutes, they were certainly more aggressive. Carson seemed to be fine with just playing defense and not making a mistake.“The girls were getting tired,” Lehman said. “We were trying to keep emotions in check. We had a couple of girls injured.“We were as (good) as (Green Valley) for sure.”


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