As the end of overtime approached and the possibility of penalty kicks seemed increasingly likely, Liz Abad decided to take a chance.
The Washington midfielder collected a loose ball 25 yards from the O’Connell net late in Thursday’s San Francisco Section girls’ soccer semifinal and instead of simply settling the ball for possession, she turned and ripped a right-footed volley toward the goal. And when the perfect shot tipped off the outstretched arms of Boilermakers’ goalie Maricruz Gonzalez and trickled into the net, Abad’s flier in the 94th minute had finally put Washington in front.
The Eagles (10-3-1) then held O’Connell off the scoreboard for the final six minutes, earning a 2-1 win and advancing to play top-seeded and nine-time defending champion Lowell in the section final, set for 2 p.m. Saturday at Boxer Stadium.
“I don’t remember what I was thinking — I just shot and hoped,” Abad said. “And then it was just excitement.”
Abad’s surprise strike capped a comeback win for Washington, which trailed 1-0 at halftime after freshman Korey Santillan’s goal in the 33rd minute gave O’Connell the lead. According to coach Charley Brinton, it was the first time the Eagles have won this year after falling behind.
“The girls knew there was a lot on the line today,” Brinton said. “This is a close team and the leaders stepped up.”
Washington’s comeback began psychologically with a halftime pep talk from a number of players and showed up on the scoreboard when Madeline Armour tied the score 1-1 in the 58th minute. The forward had twice come within inches of scoring early in the second half, but finally found the net after gathering an O’Connell goal kick, weaving through the defense and drilling a right-footed shot home.
“I was getting a little bit frustrated but just kept working hard,” Armour said. “And we got it back and came through in the end and that’s all that matters.”
Both teams had multiple opportunities to score in an entertaining, end-to-end game. A typical sequence came in the first 10-minute overtime session, when Santillan’s cross from the right side just missed sneaking in at the far post and Armour took the ensuing goal kick down the field and slid a shot just wide.
Benny Kau made six saves in the win for Washington, which is looking forward to the opportunity to face Lowell.
“We have to be aggressive and go into the game thinking we’re just as good as them,” Abad said. “We’re going to take it to them on Saturday.”
Washington 2, O’Connell 1 (OT)
SAN FRANCISCO SECTION
Wednesday: Lowell 8, Mission 0
Thursday: Washington 2, O’Connell 1 (OT)
Saturday: Lowell vs. Washington, 2 p.m. (Boxer Stadium)