IMPERIAL — Put the shot on net and good things will happen.
That’s a axiom coaches tell their players over and over with good reason.
Arika Elliott’s long shot from the right sideline lifted the Washington Lady Jays (7-2) over the Union Lady ’Cats (8-1) Thursday night in the second overtime at the Windsor Tournament championship game, 5-4.
“If you send that ball toward the goal, you never know what can happen,” Washington Head Coach Chris Lanemann said. “It can bounce or get up a little bit. Good things happen when you put the ball toward the net.”
Union Head Coach Matt Fennessey praised his team’s effort.
“We played from behind all night long and we never gave up,” Fennessey said. “We just kept coming back and fighting. We got some quality goals along the way, but Washington was the superior team tonight. They played like it, too.”
Lanemann said he told his team that it has been dominant in the tournament over the years. Pacific hosted the event before it moved to Windsor.
“I told the girls that we’ve been here before,” Lanemann said. “This was the fifth time in a row we’ve played for the championship and last year was the first time we had lost. For these seniors, this was the last chance they had to win another championship. We controlled everything during overtime. The girls came out, showed they wanted to win it, and played hard.”
And it was one of those seniors who came through at the key moment.
Elliott launched the ball at the Union net from the right sideline with 8:33 to go in the second overtime.
Union goalkeeper Haley Farrell got her hands on the ball, but couldn’t keep it from hitting under the crossbar to end the game.
Washington had tried to finish out the game, leading three times and once by two goals.
“When we got up by two goals, 3-1, I thought we might have it then,” Lanemann said. “They fought back. They’re a good team and they have good players.”
But Union’s never-say-die attitude kept the Lady ’Cats in the game.
Both teams cycled through their entire lineups. Union was playing its third game in as many days and second overtime game during the tournament.
“The great thing about this tournament was that we knew this was going to test us,” Fennessey said. “Playing tough teams, I was happy with the fact that we got back to this game. I don’t think it was a question of what was left in the tank. It was a matter of playing smart. We got away from making smart passes and making smart plays tonight.”
Washington was playing its third game in four days. The Lady Jays had survived a tough contest with Windsor in the semifinals Wednesday.
The theme of the first half for Washington was restarts.
“We had trouble getting the ball out of the backfield all game long,” Fennessey said. “Their defense was stepping in front of us and we just weren’t able to get the ball to feet. We’ve got to do a better job of securing the ball and holding it at our feet. It just didn’t happen tonight. A lot of that goes to Washington and the pressure they put on the ball.”
Both Washington goals came after spot kicks and it was the two Nurnbergers finishing.
With 20:45 left in the opening half, tournament MVP Halee Nurnberger made Union pay for not clearing a free kick. She volleyed in Union’s clearance chance, beating Union netminder Haley Farrell with a shot about four feet off the ground on the left side.
Union didn’t need long to get back. With 17:55 left in the half, Kaylyn Bigley collided with Washington goalkeeper Mary McGilvray and was able to knock the loose ball into the net.
The tie lasted nearly until the halftime break.
But, with 1:36 left, Cassidy Nurnberger, who also made the all-tournament team, put the Lady Jays back on top with a shot from the left side.
The play opened on a restart by Brianna Pagan, another all-tournament team selection, from 28 yards out on the right side. Both Nurnbergers were in the vicinity of the crossing pass, but it was the younger one who buried the goal.
Washington led 2-1 at the break and added to its lead early in the second half
With 34:50 left in regulation, Washington’s Martha Noelker broke in on the right side and put the ball into the net to make it 3-1.
It wasn’t the first time in the tournament that Union had been down by two goals. And the Lady ’Cats weren’t ready to give up.
Just over three minutes after the Noelker goal, Bethany Coons headed in a corner kick to pull Union back to within a goal, 3-2.
Coons was named to the all-tournament team along with teammate Bri Clark.
With 25:22 left in the second half, Coons worked in on the left side and crossed the ball. Her hard pass connected with the head of teammate Karlie Peth, who headed it into the goal on the right side to equalize the contest at 3-3.
With 14:26 to play, the Lady Jays took the lead again. Another restart led to Union failing to clear the ball. Cassidy Nurnberger hammered the volley into the goal to put Washington ahead again, 4-3.
And, this time, it looked like it might stick.
However, with 5:33 to play, Coons finished off a long run on the left side to equalize. Regulation ended with the teams still tied at 4-4.
Noelker just missed the far post on a shot early in regulation, but the teams ended the first overtime session still knotted at 4-4.
But Elliott’s long, high shot from the right sideline with 8:33 left in the second overtime session ended it.
Farrell stopped the shot, but couldn’t control it and the ball went under the crossbar to end the game in a Washington victory, 5-4.