Elizabeth Bankhead’s streak of six consecutive shutouts for the U-High girls soccer team boiled to down to one last decision against Academy of the Sacred Heart — left or right?
With seven minutes to play and a two-goal lead for the Cubs, the Cardinals’ Erin Tolar lined up for a penalty kick after a hard foul in the box, leaving Bankhead with a 50 percent chance of guessing correctly.
She guessed right, in more ways than one.
“With PK’s, you never really know what’s going to happen,” Bankhead said. “You really just have to guess which way she’s going, but I just took a couple steps, she shot and I made the save. (It was an) educated guess.”
Bankhead’s save, her first of the day, all but clinched No. 5 U-High’s 2-0 win over No. 2 Sacred Heart, extending the team’s run of clean sheets.
The Cubs’ (11-2-2) pulled off the upset against their long-standing rivals primarily on the backs of its defense, which kept the Cardinals (7-3-3) to only six shots all game, all of which came after halftime.
Sacred Heart entered the day averaging more than three goals per game, but didn’t have a serious threat on goal until a free kick in the 49th minute sailed wide from 30 yards out.
“Every time you get a shut out, it just kind of feels awesome,” Bankhead said. “That’s our goal, to get a shut out every game. If the other team can’t score, they can’t win.”
Offensively, U-High relied on its opportunistic attack to put points on the scoreboard, perfectly executing its game plan of following up long balls into the box.
Sophomore forward Annie Furr opened up scoring for the Cubs in the 27th minute when she followed up on a mishandled through ball by Sacred Heart goalkeeper Madison Milano. The ball bounced off Milano at the top of the box and rolled directly into the path of Furr, who scored on a wide-open net.
In similar fashion, junior midfielder Mary Holland Nader put in a wide-open rebound from about 6 yards out after a hard shot by Kirby Miller deflected off Milano’s gloves in the 63rd minute.
“That’s kind of our motto, we try to follow up every shot because it’s just what we believe in,” U-High coach Melissa Ramsey said. “It was just great that that’s how they won, by just following up shots.
“And for Annie (Furr) who has just been working so hard this year, for her to step in and score that goal — it gave me chills.”
After a slow first half, Sacred Heart was able to put together several threats on goal after the break. The Cardinals took six tries at the net, including four in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Cardinals coach Tooraj Badie said his team looked unprepared in the first half and let U-High dictate play, but praised his back line for holding the Cubs to a one-goal lead at halftime.
“It doesn’t matter how good of a back line you are if they keep putting you under pressure the entire first half,” Badie said. “Sooner or later, even the best defenders, something negative will happen and that’s exactly what happened. We were asking too much of our defenders. They cannot do it all by themselves.”