Albemarle’s Morgan Rose had one second of celebration in her before she fell to the ground, almost in the cage. It was over. It was finally over.
“I was tired and I needed to get that in the goal,” Rose said. “It went in and I didn’t know what to do with myself but cry tears of joy, tears of pain because I was so tired but also, I knew we just secured a spot in the state tournament.”
A back-and-forth battle with Brooke Point saw no resolution in regulation, only a scoreless tie. In the first 7-on-7 overtime? Nothing but Patriot opportunities that came up short. At long last, nearly 10 minutes into the second overtime with both teams flat out gassed, Albemarle finished the job. Fittingly enough, Rose — who was running on fumes — didn’t quite get all weight behind her shot, but she got enough of it that it bounced off Brooke Point’s keeper Kassidy McCall and into the cage to cement a 1-0 win in double overtime to give the Patriots their first Group 5A bid since 2007.
“I told the girls (going into overtime) that if your mind thinks you can’t do it, you’re wrong because you’ve been condition and your legs will stop hurting the second the ball hits the backboard,” said Albemarle coach Brittany McElheny. “Honestly, I told them not to play defense. I didn’t want them to play defense in 7-on-7. I wanted them to play offense.”
And they did. Kat Bianchetto, Nyla Lewis and Anna Murray all crashed the net in overtime but between shots that just went wide, shots that hit the post and shots that McCall — who had one whale of a game particularly in two overtimes that were dominated by Albemarle — there was nothing to show for it until Rose came up with the game winner with 5:38 in double OT of the Region 5C semifinals.
“Nyla hit me with a beautiful pass, set me up perfectly and all that was in the back of my head was that I had to finish for my teammates, my coaches and for myself,” Rose said.
It was a furious end in overtime to what was otherwise a patient and methodically defensive game in regulation. The Patriots and Blackhawks each had a pair of short corners in the first half and while Albemarle had the edge in time of possession and shots in the second half, Brooke Point had a pair of corners to the home team’s lone one which came with just two minutes to play.
In the second half Murray just missed converting on a shot right in the first minute. The Hawks best scoring threat five minutes later was stopped by Patriots goalkeeper Morgan Coleman. With 17 minutes to play in regulation Murray had another solid scoring chance but McCall was able to come up with the save, one of her 10 on the night. With just 45 seconds until OT, it was Madeline Chang who had a shot bounce of the left side of the cage.
All those chances without a goal on the board didn’t break Albemarle’s spirit though. In overtime, the Patriots not only applied relentless pressure, but did so while serving two of the first three minutes of 7-on-7 down a player because of a penalty.
“Our girls decided mentally that they would just keep going,” McElheny said. “It’s hard to play 7-on-7 and even harder to play 6-on-7. I didn’t change anything, the girls just dug deeper because they were so set in the mindset that they were going to score in the first three minutes.”
While that didn’t happen, it wasn’t because Albemarle didn’t get to net. The Blackhawks had just one scoring chance in both overtimes, a breakaway that Coleman came out of her spot in the cage and met with a kickstop to stymie the chance and from there it was all Patriots until Rose finally ended things.
Albemarle (13-4) travels to Mountain View on Thursday in the Region 5C championship game. A win would give the Patriots a home game in the Group 5A quarterfinals next week.