It was simple for Doherty: win and advance to the 5A playoffs, or lose and watch its season most likely come to an end. The Spartans (7-6, 4-1 5A Metro) chose door No. 1 with a gritty 2-1 win over Liberty (10-4-1, 3-1-1) at District 20 Stadium.
Doherty got goals from the Dominguez sisters, Sam and Alii, to extend its season and finish No. 2 in the conference.
With 17:37 left in Wednesday's game, Sam Dominguez scored on a beautiful cross from Alii Dominguez to break a 1-1 tie in a game that Doherty never trailed in.
"The family has always been amazing for us," Doherty coach Eryn Gallagher said. "I coached their older sister and have coached Sam for four years, and tonight they scored when we needed them to. The bottom line is this team knew what they were playing for and what was on the line, and they took care of it."
Doherty opened the scoring when Alii Dominguez put a rebound past Liberty goalkeeper Hannah Wells to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead in the 28th minute.
With 1:50 left in the first half, Doherty freshman goalkeeper Riley Furbush made a diving save when Liberty was able to get one of its forwards into a one-on-one situation. However, with 35 seconds left in the first half, Taryn LaBree tied the game for Liberty.
On a cold and windy day, the teams battled back and forth in the second half until Sam Dominguez had the game-winner. The Spartans had the aid of a strong wind in the second half, which allowed them to gain the lead and hold on for the final 17-plus minutes.
"I'm happy that we were able to put the ball in the back of the net, and I'm thankful for being on such a wonderful team," said Alii Dominguez, a sophomore.
For the 10 Doherty seniors, including Sam Dominguez, the win meant a playoff appearance and continuation of their high school careers.
"This win meant more to the seniors than anyone else on the team because we didn't want to end on a bad note," Sam Dominguez said. "We knew Liberty was a good team, but we also knew we had nothing to lose so we used that to our advantage and played all out."
As the Spartans celebrated their biggest win of the season, Liberty was left with a helpless feeling. The Lancers don't control their destiny for earning a playoff spot. Liberty will likely qualify for the state playoffs via wild-card points.
"We'll turn this into a positive, and no matter what seed we fall to in the playoffs, we're going to give it a heck of a run," Liberty coach Andy Liddle said.