Back and forth the game went for 92 minutes. Twin Valley would threaten for a few minutes, and then the Rebels would attack, and both goalies had their hands full. It was a game of resiliency. Twin Valley would put up 14 corner kicks on the evening with Hannah Swanson missing off the crossbar and posts on nearly every occasion. Amanda Bates led Leland & Gray down the field each time, as the Wildcats’ defense would bend, then bend some more, but refuse to break.
Savannah Nesbitt finally got her Wildcats on the board with a goal just before the 20-minute mark in the first half, dribbling from midfield, faking out a sweeper or two, and beating the keeper. Both teams kept pounding and with 20 minutes left in the game, Bates finally found herself the tying goal. “It was that kind of game,” said Wildcat coach Chris Walling. “There were plenty of near misses on both sides that made us gasp for breath. Overall it was a pretty well played game for both sides.”
But only one side could win, and with the game deadlocked at one, it would take two overtime periods to solve the game. As luck would have it, the deciding goal would come on a corner kick. Swanson booted one in front of the goal in the 92nd minute, finding Sammy Cunningham-Darrah in front to put the game away and defeat the Rebels for the second time this season.
The girls ended their season 8-6. “It’s a great way to end it,” said Walling. “This is (the playoffs) my favorite time of year, I thrive on it, and I hope the girls do, too.”
TV 3 South Royalton 0
WILMINGTON- In their four years of high school, the seniors on the Twin Valley Wildcats girls’ soccer team had never won a playoff game. That all changed Wednesday afternoon as they took advantage of what would be their last game on Baker Field, taking command, reversing the curse, and advancing to the second round of the Division IV playoffs.
“I really wanted this one,” said senior Savannah Nesbitt, who scored all three of Twin Valley’s goals. “You know, in my four years as a varsity soccer player, I’ve only played one playoff soccer game, and I wanted to play a few more. This is our last year, our last hurrah, it’s just motivation, and I want to get as far as possible.”
Nesbitt would show that motivation on the field, scoring right off the bat on a Hannah Swanson corner kick in the first minute of play, knocking the ball into the right side of the net. Swanson would once again lead a tough defensive effort along with Jessica Fox, angling South Royalton’s shooters into tough shots, and allowing few quality chances. Jessica Reilly had one of her finest performances in goal, preserving the shutout with a big charge out of the net in the first half, and a huge, diving save at the end of the half.
Nesbitt nailed her second shot of the afternoon in the 33rd minute, burying a big shot from above the box, again into the upper right corner. Twin Valley got big contributions from everyone on the field, while the seniors seemed to play with extra zeal. Jordan Niles, Henriette Aas, and Sammy Cunningham-Darrah would get big shot opportunities, while Christie Strysko and Kirsten Halbur provided excellent pressure in the midfield, and threatened near the top of the box.
Nesbitt would get her third goal in the second half on a penalty kick to complete the hat trick.
“We were all on the same page,” said Nesbitt. “We all wanted this one in front of the home crowd, and we were all pumped up, and played good possession, not just kicking it up the field. I think it was our teamwork that led us to victory there.”
Coach Chris Walling was happy to see a group that he said has had tough luck finally get that elusive playoff win. “Those kids, they’ve been at it for four years and this year they have a good supporting cast where we can make some noise in the post-season. I told them, ‘This is it. It’s your final go around, leave it all out there, don’t hold anything back,’ and I think they did that.”
Twin Valley will travel to Proctor for round two of the playoffs for a 2 pm showdown on Saturday.
“Proctor’s tough,” said Walling. “They’re the number-three seed in a reason and we need to come up with a game plan to keep them off balance and slow them down.”