Air Academy eliminated from soccer playoffs on penalty kicks

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For 110 minutes, nobody could take a lead in a scoreless stalemate between Air Academy and Mullen.

For the final 110 seconds or so of penalty kicks the lead couldn't have been more fickle about deciding a final destination.

Ultimately it was the visiting Mustangs, the No. 13 seed, who pulled off the improbable 5-4 comeback possible under only the random conditions provided by PKs.

The No. 5 Kadets led 4-3 after four rounds of kicks and needed only a goal in the last round or a Mullen miss to advance to the 4A girls' soccer semifinals. But Air Academy's fifth shot missed high and in the first extra round the Mustangs converted while the Kadets' final shot banged off the crossbar.

"That's never an easy thing," Air Academy coach Espen Hosoien said. "It's a little tough when we have one PK to win it and we miss the last two to lose the game. That's pretty brutal, but PKs usually are. Unless you win."

The Mustangs advance to take on No. 1 Lewis-Palmer at Legacy Stadium on Saturday.

"My heart dropped and I was so happy," Wanna said. "I was just like, thank you so much."

There was nothing brutal about the situation to Kaylah Wanna, who kicked in the winner for Mullen.

That Air Academy's playoff run ended on penalty kicks was no surprise, and in fact was a possibility the team tried to guard against early in the season by switching the focus to offense after a few weeks after it became apparent the defense was sufficiently stout.

The defense never wavered, giving up just nine goals over 18 games.

But the Kadets (11-4-3) knew goals would have to come from someplace, and that just didn't happen on Thursday - but not for lack of trying. Several through passes nearly materialized into looks, but Mullen (10-7-1) goalkeeper Kaitlyn Harry gambled correctly on several plays by coming up to stop the ball at the last possible moment.

Bella Solano took a shot that required a diving save from Harry to stop, and Jenny Najarian later had an open look that was also stopped.

Other than that, the two 40-minute halves and two 15-minute overtime sessions were largely controlled by the defenses.

"Our defense has been superb the whole season, and our goalkeeper included," Hosoien said. "It was no different today."

Hosoien shouted out to goalkeeper Katie Scott before the third round of penalty kicks that she needed to guess a side, and she did so correctly in turning away a shot that put Air Academy up in kicks. But Mullen - which upset No. 4 TCA in overtime to get to this game - didn't miss again.

"We just said to each other that we had to be confident and not overthink it," Wanna said.