MADISON — Bulldog goalkeeper Lauren Hay tried to read Kathleen McPherson’s eyes, but there was nothing the Traip Academy striker was giving away as she stepped up to take a penalty kick with a trip to the Class C South regional final on the line.

“I try to tell where their eyes are going or the way their body moves,” Hay said. “This time, nobody even looked at the goal.”

It was little matter for Hay, who stopped the final two shots she faced with saves inside the left post, helping the No. 2 Madison girls soccer team over No. 3 Traip 4-2 on penalty kicks after the teams played 110 minutes of scoreless soccer across two regulation halves and a pair of overtime periods in a regional semifinal Friday afternoon. Seniors Ashley Emery, Whitney Bess, Sydney LeBlanc and Jillian Holden all scored in the round of penalty kicks, as the Bulldogs advanced to face top-seeded Monmouth Academy in the regional finals Wednesday.

For Hay, she felt like all the pressure was on her when the contest went to the spot kicks to settle things.

“I feel like it’s on me. I was so nervous,” Hay said. “I was confident and a little worried. … I feel like I did something good for the team.”

In truth, the pressure is as much on the shooter as it is the goalkeeper, evidenced by Kiki Huntress and McPherson both being turned aside by Hay with tentative shots to the right side after Traip’s Emma Auclair and Sophia Santamaria each scored on their own turn to keep pace with the first two shooters for Madison (15-1-0).


It was a gut-wrenching way to decide a game that had seen both teams formulate attacks while remaining cognizant of defending their own respective third of the pitch. Madison coach Erin Wood’s team prepared for the eventuality of the penalty kick scenario in a tournament game, having gone through the motions in a recent scrimmage.

“I think it helps having seniors in these positions,” Wood said. “They were obviously nervous, but we didn’t look overwhelmed. They didn’t have that look on their face like it was going to be too much. Having a senior goalkeeper (helped).”

Holden, who froze Traip goalkepper Sommer Huntress with her cleanly struck finish to the upper 90, believed the Bulldogs were ready for the moment.

“We’ve practiced these a lot, because we knew when we got to playoffs this is the type of thing you’re going to see,” Holden said. “It’s going to be close. You need to know how to be successful in those pressure moments.”

Both teams had opportunities — and excellent ones, at that — to make sure the match never made the decisive penalty kick stage.

Traip (10-4-2) dictated play in the first 15 minutes of the match, with the Rangers’ possession and speed leading to McPherson’s chance in close range in the 22nd minute.


But Madison found its way into the game in the closing stages of the opening 40 minutes, carrying the momentum into the second half. Emery hit the crossbar with her free kick drive in the 38th minute, and in the 44th minute Emery sent LeBlanc in alone, only for LeBlanc’s left-footed chance to be thwarted by Huntress (nine saves).

As the minutes continued to rise, so did the tension, and an audible gasp could be heard from the Madison fans gathered when — in second-half stoppage time — Traip’s Sidney Auclair centered across an open goal mouth for an unmarked Jennifer McCluskey.

McCluskey simply didn’t have the energy left to run onto the pass.

That was the story for many of the players on the pitch in extra time. Madison carried play for the most part in the first 15-minute period, while tiring Bulldog defenders left gaps for Traip attackers to exploit in the second overtime.

In the end, neither team had enough to find the goal and avoid Hay’s heroics in penalty kicks.

“I thought, the way we played the second half and the first overtime, I thought we were going to get an opportunity. I was surprised we didn’t finish one,” Wood said. “It was a first for us in a playoff situation, and the girls did a great job. It was amazing.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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