North girls escape East on penalty kicks for sectional title

GREENWOOD — On two occasions in Saturday night’s girls soccer sectional final, Columbus North goalkeeper Mallory Gilley went down to the turf in a heap of pain.

Both times, she got back up and went back to her spot in the goal.

At the end of the Bull Dogs’ battle with Columbus East, it was Gilley who came up big and saved their season. She stopped a pair of penalty kicks in a shootout, allowing North to pull out a 7-6 win on PKs in what will go down as an Instant Classic.

“I never once thought I was going to have to come out of the game,” Gilley said. “I knew I was going to pull through.”

This was the second game in a row that came down to PKs for the Class 3A No. 7 Bull Dogs (15-1-2). They beat host and 4A No. 8 Center Grove 4-2 in a shootout in Thursday’s semifinals.

North’s Lauren Barker opened the shootout by converting, and East’s Sydney Berkemeier answered. Then, after North’s K.J. Ely converted, Gilley stopped a shot by Norah Dwenger.

North’s Emily Ellis and East’s Kylie Hatcher, and then North’s Rion Stevens and East’s Allison Craig all converted, but then North’s Claire Lyvers missed wide right, leaving the door open for the Olympians, who tied it when Alexis Spurgeon converted.

That send the shootout to sudden death. North’s Riley Schumm and East’s Gabi Schuetz converted, then North’s Kara Kolhouse and East’s Kat Soedel converted. The Bull Dogs’ Anna Donica converted, and Gilley stopped a shot by Ruth Federle to end it.

“I definitely do not (like PKs), but it’s what it comes down to, so it has to be done,” Gilley said. “Every time, I’m ready.”

For the second game in a row, North had to overcome a 1-0 halftime deficit. Maggie Mathews gave East a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute when she knocked in a ball after Gilley came out to field a ball, but couldn’t corral it.

The Bull Dogs tied the game in the 63rd minute when Ely took a pass from Stevens and put it over the head of Olympians keeper Anna Liimatta.

“At halftime, we talked about how we needed to get something in order to keep the momentum going because I think they had a lot more,” Ely said. “But we picked it up right after that, and we knew what we needed to do, and I think that really set the tone for us going forward.”

“Late in the first half, we changed from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 just to put a little more pressure on their back line,” North coach David Young added. “Unfortunately, we kind of gave up an unlucky goal there early in the game. I felt like we didn’t really get our rhythm going. Kudos to East with what they were doing. Fortunately, we were able to get one there to tie it up.”

The Bull Dogs outshot the Olympians (11-6-1) 11-7, with both teams putting five shots on goal.

“Our defense is really awesome,” East coach Ilya Schwartzman said. “We bent a lot, but don’t break very often. The game plan was to play our game, control the pace and play tough defense, and they did. It’s just a tough way to lose.

“The team played fantastic,” he added. “The effort was outstanding. They fought against one of the best teams in the state. We played a number of them this season, and we played all of them tough. They just gave it their all.”

North now advances to a regional semifinal on Wednesday, which it will host at the BCSC Soccer Complex.

“It’s the best feeling ever, especially having another hometown rivalry game, and now we get to play at home on Wednesday,” Ely said.