Rangers Advance To Sweet Sixteen On PK’s

A week removed from winning the 2010 Great Lakes Valley Conference Championship game over Northern Kentucky University, Parkside’s women’s soccer team was set for a rematch in the second round of the NCAA Division II tournament. This game was an absolute thriller in every sense of the word. The game lasted through extra time and on into penalty kicks to decide a winner. The Rangers outlasted their key rivals of the conference season, winning 4-2 on penalty kicks.

“We knew coming in what [NKU] were going to do,” stated women’s soccer head coach Troy Fabiano. “They knew what we were going to do. We told the girls it was going to come down to a physical battle.”

The game started with a strong rush from the opposition, who found the first goal of the match very early. NKU’s Megan Smith found Amanda Mason wide open in the box for the opening goal in only the third minute of the match. Mason, a junior midfielder, appeared to be just offside when she received the pass, but the opening goal started a surge for NKU. The Rangers were on their back foot defensively, and were struggling to get quality scoring chances.

The game completely turned on it’s head after a major blunder on the part of NKU’s keeper Rachael Wood. The NKU keeper had just secured the ball in the box, but she lost the handle of the ball when trying to fake a throw out of the box. The ball fell right to the feet of Parkside’s Crystal Chalery. Chalery then slotted it to Megan Owens, who found a vacant net in the thirty-fifth minute of the match.

The game was at a 1-1 scoreline at the start of the second half, and it would stay 1-1 all the way through the end of extra time. The one thing that can’t be overstated enough is just how physical the second half was. These two teams were dead set on finishing the game in ninety minutes, and the physicality was astonishing.

“Darga was very physical,” laughed Fabiano. She was very physical, and didn’t back down. She was going through a lot of people, and didn’t back down at all.”

Parkside and NKU were grid locked in a battle. The Rangers’ sophomore defender Brittany Darga received a yellow card in the fifty-forth minute when she nearly bulldozed NKU’s Amanda Mason into next week. Much later in the contest, NKU’s Taylor Jennings took a full swing at a Parkside player during the formation of a very close NKU free kick with seven minutes left in regulation. This resulted in a yellow card for NKU’s Jennings, and, with two minutes left, NKU’s Danielle Hogue was given a straight red card.

“I love when people say soccer is not a contact sport,” laughed coach Fabiano. “If people saw today’s game you would have saw how physical it was.”

The game’s physicality was paramount in the second half, and, for both periods of extra time, the Norse of NKU played with a player down as a result of the red card. Fortunately for the Norse, they outlasted great offensive surges by the Rangers in extra time, and forced the game into penalty kicks.

The Rangers’ all-time leading scorer Shannon Becker was the first to walk to the spot, and she buried her shot in the low right corner. First up for NKU was Laura Painter, who blasted her penalty kick off of the crossbar. Stephanie Barsuli was next in line, and she put her chance in off the outstretched hand of NKU’s Rachael Wood. Kristi Hofmeyer put her chance through low left, and put NKU on the board in PK’s. Parkside senior Kahili Cheng set her chance up with a slow run up, but her chance was stopped by NKU’s Rachael Wood. NKU’s chance to level the score was on the leading scorer of the GLVC this season, Amanda Mason, but Parkside’s Cassie Glodowski leap wide and stopped it. Kristen Benson was next to the spot for Parkside, and blasted her chance high left. To keep NKU alive, Megan Smith scored a very cheeky chip by Glodowski.

The last player to walk to the spot, with the game in grasp, was Brynn Darga. The sophomore defender, whose physical and hard defensive efforts shutdown NKU in the second half, stepped up and banged her PK into the high left corner to give the Rangers their third victory over Northern Kentucky University this year, and advanced the team into the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. The exuberant and electric Parkside fans rushed the pitch of Wood Road Field right after the clincher by Darga, as this game ended just before nightfall.

“We’ve been practicing PK’s for four weeks now,” stated coach Fabiano. “We had the confidence going in that we would win it, and four out of five kids buried it.”

By all means, this game was a classic. It was forty degrees outside with a strong side wind on the field, and, toward penalties, a slight mist was coming down on the field. Parkside and Northern Kentucky played their hearts out through the cold and darkening conditions. After everything that these two sides have been through this year, the game deserved the finish that it had, as it came down to penalty kicks. There should be no regrets for NKU, as both teams showed an amazing display of what makes soccer the most popular sport in the world.

Winning Sunday afternoon, the Rangers advance to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen to face against the top ranked team in the region, Grand Valley State University. In 2008, the Rangers defeated the then undefeated GVSU. Parkside is ranked second in the region, and it is coming off of another huge win against NKU.

“We always tell the girls that we are not the biggest group, we’re not the fastest group, but mentally and physically, if you have the heart, you’ll fight through things,” said coach Fabiano. “They fought through a lot of things today.”

The GLVC Champion Rangers are set to play this coming Friday on the road, but you can follow along with their run through the NCAA Tournament with The Ranger News official page on Facebook. Join up, and we’ll keep you posted from there!

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