It was not easy, but Liberty girls soccer squeaked by Hermiston 1-0 in the final minutes of a Class 5A?Round 2 play-in on Saturday.
The deciding point was a tough one, netted on a header by Stephani Jirikovic off a cross with 3:42 left in regulation. Each team posed its share of scoring threats, but overall Libertys were better looks.
We got beat on the weak side professionally all teams get beat on the weak side, so I cant complain about that, Hermiston coach Sharok Khabir said.
Bulldogs goalkeeper Hope Butler was swarmed by Falcons strikers all afternoon. Controlling ball possession 60 percent of the game, Liberty had at least 10 shots on goal that got stuffed.
They had no other places to go but take the shots, and this was planned to begin with knowing we have one of the best goalkeepers in the state, Khabir said.
A first-team Columbia River Conference selection, Butler had never played in rain before. Skies drizzled in the scoreless first half, turning to a harder shower by the end of the 57-degree afternoon. She was hard on herself for letting up the winning point.
I could have had better placement, Butler said. I was too close to the near post, but it is one of those shots you just gotta accept.
Hermistons best shot to put the game away came with 10:30 to go. Mikaela Rodriguez sprinted down a loose ball, beating Libertys keeper to it in the box, but overshot it on an open look.
Coming into the contest, Khabir said the team that wanted to win most would take the victory. He may have been right, as Liberty turned up its intensity noticeably in the second half with increased physicality.
During a 12-minute stretch, Liberty made seven shots on goal. Any could have scored, but Butlers hands were like velcro on most shots despite the slick conditions.
Hermiston finished their season 5-4-4 and went 2-2-2 in league play.
Its almost hard to describe, Butler said. Weve grown so much from last year that this game is one of the best games weve had.
We had quite a bit of chances to put the game away, but unfortunately we couldnt, Khabir said. Liberty was a good team, but all their coaches, parents and administrators told me how tough a team we were to beat today.