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Solon zaps Lightning in double OT

Tucker, Havlicek and Noonan combine for shoot-out win over Liberty High School
Lady Spartan senior Brianna Smith embraces sophomore keeper Brenna Gogel, as the Liberty Lightning’s keeper kneels in defeat behind them, following a triumphant 3-2 shoot-out. The win followed a scoreless 80 minutes of regulation play and 20 minutes of overtime. The win moved the Lady Spartans to 3-4 for the season. (photo by Jeff Hess)

SOLON– The Lady Spartans entered Spartan Stadium on Saturday, April 21, still reeling from the Anamosa setback the night before, and nursing some walking wounded, to meet the Liberty Lightning.
It would be a test for the battle-weary Lady Spartans to overcome their new opponent, which they would; after two 40-minute halves of play, two 10-minute overtimes, and five penalty kicks per team, the Solon Lady Spartans captured the win, 3-2.
“They are a very well coached team and were doing all the right things,” Solon Coach John Tucker said. “They had players who had played at West High and other schools, as well as club, so you could not say that they are a new team in that sense. I knew they had taken Regina (ranked No. 3 in the state) to overtime, and played West Delaware to the same score that we had with them. I knew we would have to play at our best to be successful.”
The Solon Lady Spartans kept the ball in threatening position on Liberty’s side of the field for half of first half, but were unable to finish and defended their goal well, leading to a scoreless first period.
Following the half, the teams split time on either end of their respective fields, neither yielding, ending regulation 0-0.
The two teams could not find the goal in the two ensuing 10-minute overtimes, forcing a shoot-out to determine the winner.
Coach Tucker doesn’t like it when a game comes down to shoot-outs, but looks for confident, settled players.
“Win or lose, I hate shoot-outs,” he said. “You never know what is going to happen. Before each kick, the players are wracked with emotions, thoughts, nerves and after all that playing, exhaustion. You can never predict how a shoot-out is going to go. Because of that, I always ask the players who feels like they can take the kicks. I don’t want to pick someone who may not be ready mentally, emotionally or physically. I have confidence in whoever raises their hand, and they know that they have a responsibility to perform if they do. That’s how we are successful in shoot-outs.”
Megan Smith led off the Solon five with her kick blocked by Liberty’s goalie. Lady Spartan goalie Brenna Gogel ensured the Lightning’s first kick went wide.
Kenzie Pentico’s kick glanced off the right goal upright bouncing back out, and the next shot by Liberty got past Gogel.
Megan Tucker placed the ball inside the left side of the goal just out of the Liberty’s goalie’s reach, but Gogel was not able to turn away the next Lightning assault. Sylvia Havlicek glanced one off the Liberty goalie’s right knee neatly into the right rear corner of the goal, and Gogel watched the next Lightning kick fly wide to her right. Taylor Noonan bounced one off the keeper’s right glove into the bottom of the goal, and Liberty’s goalie attempted to make a shot on Solon’s Gogel who watched the ball fly wide to her right.
Gogel sprinted from the goal, greeted by Smith and the two embraced. Turning, they raced to meet their teammates from the bench near midfield to join in a celebratory clinch.
Solon triumphed, 3-2, over the Liberty Lightning in their first-ever meeting.
Gogel spent 100 minutes in the goal by the end of the game and turned away three of five penalty shots in the shoot-off.
Coach Tucker was in awe of the performance on Saturday following the string of games played during the week.
“Honestly, I don’t know how the girls did it,” he said. “I am still in awe they were able to get up that morning and not only play well, but I would say, play one of their best games. They played with an intensity, and a togetherness that was far and above anything I could have hoped for, given the circumstances. I told them how proud I was of their effort, and how amazing it was to be a part of as a coach. We showed what Solon Soccer is all about.”
Solon faces three road games as an encore to having played four games in five days, starting Tuesday, April 24, at Western Dubuque in Epworth with a 5:15 p.m. varsity start followed by the junior varsity game. Then it is a Highway 1 trek to Mount Vernon on Friday, April 27, for a 4:30 p.m. varsity start for action, and Tuesday, May 1, the Lady Spartans take the field against Maquoketa at 5 p.m.
Asked if it was out of the frying pan and into the fire regarding the road run, Coach Tucker saw the challenge as indicative of the soccer season so far.
“Each of those games will certainly be tough for any number of reasons... injuries, on the road, grass (at best) fields, and a field of teams that is really hard to gauge this year,” he said. “Teams are beating other teams that, in the past, were not even a question, all up and down the schedule. We will be using a lot of ice and rollers in the next week for sure. But it the long run, I think it sets us up well for postseason play, since our schedule thins out by then, and we will know what it is going to take to be successful.”
Tucker really isn’t sure what to expect anymore
“Things have been so crazy this year,” he noted. “I know we are a good team, and I know we can be successful when we are playing at our best. I think we are starting to find ourselves, especially after the Liberty game. We just need to keep building on that effort. When we are at our best, we are a really good team. We have some time Monday to fine tune some things, then it is back to learning by doing.”