FRANKLIN — Allegedly, before the Meadville and Hickory girls soccer teams went into overtime during Monday night’s District 10 Class 3A semifinal match at Franklin High School, one of the referees was chatting with Bulldogs sophomore Addie Phillis.
“And the ref said,” related Meadville head coach Jim Miller, “‘Who’s going to score the winning goal?’
“And (Phillis) said, jokingly, ‘I am.’”
This, it turned out, was no joke.
Just 38 seconds had elapsed in the extra period. The Bulldogs had taken possession on the opening whistle, drove the ball down into Hickory’s end and got itself a corner kick from the right side.
Phoebe Templin took the kick and launched it toward the Hornets’ goal.
Phillis was about to make her prediction come true.
“Phoebe kicked the ball. It was a really good corner kick,” said Phillis. “I just dove for it. And the goalie missed it. And it was in the net!”
The header by Phillis angled past Hickory goalie Molly Piso and into the left side of the Hornets net. And with that, Meadville had punched its ticket to the Class 3A championship game, beating the Hornets 2-1 in OT.
“I’m really, really excited,” said Phillis. “I almost cried after the first goal.”
We’ll get to that first goal in a second.
First, with the win the Bulldogs improve to 13-6-0 on the year and advance to the title game to take on Warren, which had a bye in the semifinal round. The title game is slated for Wednesday at a site and time to be announced.
“You don’t know how bad this team wants Warren,” said Miller. “Last year we didn’t even make it to the D-10 championship. Prior to that we had two years in a row that we were runner-up in D-10 against Villa.
“For these seniors … one of them, Alaina Zieziula, said ‘I want to touch that D-10 trophy. I want it to be on our end.”
Hickory, meanwhile, ends its season with a record of 7-12-0.
“Before I say anything about my team, I just want to compliment Meadville,” said Hickory head coach B.J. Rudge. “They fought and they played hard.
“But, you know, for our girls, we’ve dealt with a lot of challenges this year. … You hate to see it end that way. But, from my standpoint, what I’m proud about is how my girls chose to finish. The last time we played Meadville we lost 4-0. So to at least come into this moment and make it competitive, I certainly take a lot of pride in how my girls chose to play and they played to the very end.”
The thing was, when Meadville beat Hickory 4-0, the Hornets were down a few players to injury, among them was Piso in goal.
This time around, Hickory had a full squad. And the difference was obvious in the first half, as the Hornets kept the ball in Meadville’s end, got off a few shots on goal, and created some tense situations for the Bulldogs with a couple corners and free kicks.
“But they weren’t able to get the ball off strong,” said Miller. “Because we kept our movement, we stayed with them, we didn’t dive past them or flail away like the last time we played McDowell.”
For the second half, however, Meadville was able to push things more to the Hornets’ side of the field, peeling the ball away from Hickory’s attackers, and maintaining possession better through the midfield.
“We adjusted,” said Miller. “We got the right combination of players Zieziula, Linn Torrel and Liz Adams, and we got Olivia Savage up top.”
Soon, the scoring chances started manifesting for Meadville.
With under 15 minutes to play in regulation, one of those chances ended up in the back of Hickory’s net.
Adams had a terrific run around the defender along the right side of the field. She centered the ball in front of Hickory’s goal where Savage and Torrel were waiting for it.
They both started hammering at the ball. Piso did what she could to stop it. But she was getting peppered. A couple Hickory defenders complicated things. Eventually, Torrel got a touch on it and it pinged off a couple players before heading into the twine, putting Meadville up 1-0.
The score was credited as an own goal by Hickory.
Meadville didn’t get to celebrate for long, however.
About five minutes later, Hickory was awarded a free kick on the 45-yard line. Piso came out from goal to take it. She put it right on target. Meadville goalie Riley Olson appeared to lose it in the lights. And then the slick, dew-covered ball slipped off her outstretched arms, over her shoulder and into the back of the net, tying the game.
“That was her second goal this year that she’s scored from that range,” said Rudge. “We were just trying to find some kind of spark. And it just bounced in.”
Regulation would end with a 1-1 tie a short time later.
“We held on,” said Miller. “We kept playing hard. And we had some scary moments.”
And just seconds after play resumed in overtime, the ball found its way to Phillis’ noggin, pushing the Lady Bulldogs to the title match.
“We know how fast the game can go once you get into overtime,” said Rudge. “And Meadville did a good job. They got the ball on the kickoff, moved it quickly down the field and got that corner.
“That’s what it comes down to. It comes down to those moments.”