Steady rain, a muddy and torn up field and one of the best teams in the country on the other side – none of it would stop Clayton State (8-6-3, 5-5-1 PBC) as they delivered an unbelievable 5-4 penalty kick shootout victory over No. 18 North Georgia (15-2-2, 9-1-1 PBC) to advance to the fifth Peach Belt Conference Tournament Championship Game in program history in an NCAA Division II women’s soccer game on Friday, November 15. Officially, the game goes down as a 1-1 tie for both teams.
Fresh off a PK victory at UNC Pembroke in the quarterfinals in a game that featured temperatures in approaching 30 degrees, the Lakers would be faced with a new challenge in addition to a daunting opponent. While temps where hovering near 50 degrees, it would be the weather that would play a key role from start to finish as the greater Augusta, Georgia area was soaked with rain that led to the playing surface being treacherous.
This would rear its ugly head early on but would benefit Clayton State. Following a shot that she saved, UNG’s keeper attempted to serve a ball from up in the box, only to see it land at the feet of sophomore forward Isabel Massa (Caracas, Venezuela) at about the 25 yard mark. Woefully out of position, the keeper could do nothing but sprint back to the line and watch as Massa lofted the ball over her head and in for a 1-0 lead at the 10:45 mark.
A slow go the entire way due to the weather, that lead would hold up until the start of the second half. With 48:48 gone by, UNG’s leading scorer Taylor Malasek got to the top of the box and rifled a shot to the top left corner to knot things up at 1-1. From there it would be back to defense and mud as the teams slogged through the remaining 42 minutes, combining for just four shots.
As they headed to overtime it would be all Lakers as they outshot the Nighthawks 3-0, including shots requiring saves in the 98th and 99th minutes, the last coming with 42 seconds left. The final overtime period would see no shots whatsoever, taking Clayton State to its second straight shootout and fifth in program history.
Unlike their quarterfinal battle, it would not be clean as both teams had goals and saves called back due to their keepers stepping off the line.
As she did before, senior defender Janne Brouer (Aarhus, Denmark) led off for the Lakers but Morgan Ramby dove to her right to make the save. That would allow North Georgia to take a 1-0 as Katey Derkay put their first attempt in on the left side.
Senior midfielder Jane McKevitt (Thurles, Ireland) calmly stepped up and drilled the next one to the upper left to put it at 1-1 and junior goalkeeper Valentina Bonaiuto (Valencia, Venezuela) made a tremendous save on Payton Bisso’s attempt, deflecting if off the front of the cross bar. However, it would be the first of three violations and Bisso’s retry resulted in a ball in the back of the net.
Ramby would do the same thing at the top of the third round as her diving save to the right side on sophomore midfielder Marie Devillers (Toulouse, France) shot would be waved off. Devillers then capitalized on the misstep and put in the left hand corner to make it 2-2. Bonaiuto would then make a diving save to her right to prevent Malasek from breaking the deadlock.
Junior midfielder Ann-Cathrin Zabel (Schwarme, Germany), the hero of the UNCP game, would do her part again as she led off the fourth round with a top shelf delivery to the left corner. The lead would be short lived as Rosie Embley grounded one into the left corner to knot at 3-3 through four rounds.
In her first career PK attempt, sophomore midfielder Pia Haug (Ytre Enebakk, Norway) went upper dead center to give the Lakers a chance at the win, something they thought they had when Bonaiuto made a stop on Kristina Burkingstock. That too would be one that would be waved off, however, and she would put home the equalizer to send the teams to sudden death at 4-4.
With the pressure on sophomore midfielder Chiara Rosener (Minden, Germany) showed no signs of it affecting her as powered a ball into the back right corner to put Clayton State up 5-4. It would come down to Jazmin Adlam as the last hope for the Nighthawks. She would go low and hard at Bonaiuto, who ended up making the save with her feet while lying prone on the ground to give the Lakers a tremendous victory and a berth in the PBC Championship.
In terms of the first 110 minutes, the lone goal by Malasek would be all that UNG would get before Derkay, Bisso, Embley and Burkingstock converted their PK’s in the shootout. Ramby went the distance, making three saves against the one goal to fall to 15-2-2.
Massa’s early goal, meanwhile, led the Lakers in regular game play and McKevitt, Devillers, Zabel, Haug and Rosener put home five straight PK’s in the deciding session. That topped the four consecutive they delivered against UNC Pembroke’s Gina Ryan in the quarterfinal. Bonaiuto played all 110 in goal and made a pair of saves against one goal before once again coming up big when it counted the most. She improves to 8-5-2.
Historically, this will be Clayton State’s fifth trip to the championship game. Those include a 1-0 loss to Kennesaw State in 2002, 2-1 double-overtime defeat to North Florida in 2004, 2-1 overtime win over Columbus State in 2005 and a 2-2 tie against Georgia College that saw them claim a 4-2 PK victory in the 2013 championship game.