Monday’s Division III girls soccer quarterfinal game at Episcopal had a little bit of everything: coaching strategy, big plays, and a 30-minute lightning delay just before the deciding penalty kick shootout.
And, in the mind of Catholic High of New Iberia goalkeeper Meredith Musso, the game also included a bit of divine intervention.
“I’ve had a really good feeling about this game ever since I woke up this morning,” said Musso, minutes after CHNI (18-6-1) pulled out a 3-2 win on penalty kicks over Episcopal. “I knew if God had brought us this far, we would come out victorious and just to stay calm and that we’d win.”
Musso was solid in goal for the Panthers, making five saves in regulation and the four overtimes and two more in the penalty-kick shootout.
She blocked attempts by Summer Rhymes and Moira Fontenot in the shootout, and Caroline Goodner blasted her penalty kick off the crossbar. Catholic got goals from Madeline Vines, Madeline LeBlanc and Kaitlyn Guilbeau for the 3-2 margin.
Episcopal’s penalty-kick goals came from freshman Sadie Spring and senior co-captain Nicole Newton.
CHNI coach Brandon Francis, who’d seen his girls lose twice to Episcopal during the regular season, had his team play for the shootout, packing the defensive end to gain a numbers advantage.
“Episcopal has phenomenal players,” Francis said. “We don’t have many select, or competitive, players, and most of our players came straight from volleyball. Episcopal is also superbly coached, and to have a result like this against a superior team is just vice-versa from our boys game Saturday (a 1-0 loss to Parkview Baptist).
“The feelings I had after that game I know are the same the young ladies from Episcopal feel and will be working through,” he said.
Despite having to play through 9 and 10 defenders on the Catholic half, Episcopal (18-8) still outshot Catholic 21-2, with seven quality shots on goal and one penalty kick during the match.
Their best scoring chance came in the 17th minute when Lindsay Redhead was awarded a penalty kick after being fouled in the box, but her try was saved by Musso, who anticipated the kick.
“All I can say is I thought she was going to my right the whole time, but I dove to the left,” Musso said, “ I don’t know why. It was awesome of Madeline (LeBlanc) to be there to clean up, because I couldn’t catch it. It was so amazing.”
The Knights almost had a game-winner in the second overtime when Adair McCanless substituted in and, on the first play, fielded a throw-in and took a shot that clanged off the bottom of the right post.
“We had our opportunities,” Episcopal coach Matt Shelton said. “We controlled most of the game, and they never really pressured us, but they did a great job defending. They packed it in and kept everyone behind the ball with just one player up looking for the counterattack, but we just couldn’t score.”
The Knights had nearly a dozen set piece chances on corner kicks and free kicks in regulation time and another three in the overtimes. Defender Caroline Goodner also spent much of the time sending strong throw-ins into the box that resulted in shots, but Musso and her defenders, led by LeBlanc and Camille Hebert, turned back every threat.
The rain, which had been threatening all during the game, finally began in earnest late in regulation and continued through the overtimes, leaving standing water in pools around the pitch and rendering dribbling and passes on the ground almost impossible.
“Once the rain came and the field got nasty, it was just a crapshoot,” Shelton said. “It affected everybody, but on a wet, soggy field and a team that packs it in — it does change the game.”