Soccer is a game that features brief, electrifying moments. Turn your head and you might miss the sequence that defines an entire game.
This was the case in the Rampart girls team’s 1-0 victory Thursday over Doherty at District 20 Stadium. For nearly the entire game, the teams struggled to produce offense. The wind was a factor. So was a brand of defense by both teams that bordered on stalking.
But with 14:40 left in the first half, Rampart’s Kellyn Padgett and MaryBethe Smith broke free from the clutter to deliver a stupendous instant of soccer theater.
The teammates were running together toward a loose ball when they caught eyes. Somehow, Smith knew it was the right idea to let Padgett take this one. Smith bolted toward the goal.
Padgett directed a pass that traveled only 5 yards, but it was a deceptively crafted one. The ball reached Smith in stride and all alone against Doherty goalie Taylor Denny.
Denny did exactly what she should have done. She cut off Smith’s angle for a shot on the near post, leaving only a sliver for Smith to shoot at.
But Smith was ready for the challenge. Her sister, Courtney, plays goalie for Liberty, and the Smiths’ sibling rivalry has helped MaryBethe understand the mind of goalies.
Even before Denny moved out to virtually eliminate Smith’s angle, the Rampart star was thinking about where she would shoot.
Her thinking paid off. She directed an expertly placed, left-footed shot into the far corner. It ended up in the back of the net.
On the sideline, Rampart coach Carisa Bendico shook her fists with joy.
“Oh, it was beautiful,” Bendico said of the goal. “They did exactly what we’ve been working on.”
No one could accuse Smith of being ungrateful for Padgett’s pass.
“Thank you,” Smith shouted to Padgett on the field. “That was a perfect pass. That’s your goal, not mine.”
Padgett shrugged when she remembered all of Smith’s praise.
“I love those kind of goals,” she said. “That shot took a lot of patience from MaryBethe.”
The goal almost didn’t stand up. Seven minutes later Doherty’s AJ Blount burst free and found herself one-on-one with Rampart goalie Andrea Stump. Blount’s shot was well-aimed, but Stump was ready. She made a sprawling save to rescue Rampart’s victory.
Pine Creek’s victory over Liberty later in the evening spoiled Rampart’s chances at a Metro League title, but Bendico was pleased with her team’s effort and performance for the entire season.
“I think Rampart is taken lightly, but we’re as competitive as any team,” Bendico said.
Can the Rams make noise in the upcoming state tournament?
“Oh, definitely,” Bendico said. “Definitely.”
If the Rams can put together more virtually perfect moments like the one Smith and Padgett delivered on Thursday night, Bendico might be right.