Published: May 6, 2014
AURORA - You just can't make this stuff up. A last-second goal. A power outage.
Then an overtime winner.
Just your average 5A girls' first-round playoff soccer game.
When Morgan Metcalf botched a perfect cross from Taryn LeBree in a prime scoring area, it kind of summed up the night for Liberty where very little went right against Rangeview.
The freshman, however, kept after a bouncing ball, loose down low and unable to be cleared. She got position, put a foot on the ball and tucked it into the net with 11:20 left in the second overtime to cap an incredible 2-1 victory Tuesday at Hinkley High School.
Incredible is how the game got to overtime in the first place.
With a season slipping away, one desperate second at a time, Beth Plentl glanced at the clock and sent a 30-yard free kick toward the net, where Raiders (11-5) freshman goalkeeper Belle Helgerson had been a force all night with 13 saves.
This time, the floater escaped the lunge of Helgerson, with just 0.7 seconds left on the clock, tying the game at 1 in an ending more befitting of a basketball buzzer beater.
"You just don't see that in this sport," an elated Lancers coach Andy Liddle said. "We were completely on the ropes. We were done. Once you get under a minute left, all they had to was to kick the ball away. We got the ball, it took a short hop and a hand ball gave us a free kick. Beth is our free-kick specialist."
Even with a partially torn right hamstring, the junior first had to chase down a loose ball, then get clearance from the referee once there was a 10-yard distance between her and the Raider wall.
Tick, tick, tick.
"I looked up and saw 4 seconds left, and I just went for it," said Plentl, who transferred from Discovery Canyon prior to the season. "I knew it was going in. I just had that feeling. Even with my leg feeling the way it did, I knew I had to dig deep. Liberty deserves this, and our coach deserves it. But our seniors deserve it the most."
Liberty (11-4-1), seeded No. 18 in the 32-team tournament, next will meet second-ranked Rock Canyon (15-1) on Friday. The Jaguars ended the Lancers' season last May in the quarterfinals.
"We'll celebrate this one tonight," Liddle said, "but we'll get back to work tomorrow."
Tomorrow very nearly didn't happen, even as Liberty controlled most of the possession in the first half and continuing that into the second 40-minute half. The Lancers couldn't finish, however.
Five minutes into the second half, a Liberty pass caromed and found Rangeview freshman Jessica Hixson, who broke in alone and beat Lancers keeper Hannah Wells for a 1-0 Raiders lead.
"Soccer is a strange sport," Rangeview coach Vic Strouse said. "We didn't have a shot on goal in the first half. We changed formations for the second half, and lo and behold, our center-forward (Hixson) got through and buried it. We defended well and hung on as long as you possibly could."
When the stadium went dark in the first minute of the second overtime, it added yet another dimension to an already bizarre playoff game.
"About everything happened that could happen in a soccer game," said Strouse, whose team fell in overtime in a first-round playoff game for a third straight season.