Karlee Hendricks placed the ball on the field 40 yards from the goal and decided she’d try to break the stalemate herself.
The Classical Academy junior launched the free kick into the side of the net with 12 minutes remaining, breaking a scoreless tie and opening the scoring floodgates in a 3-1 Titans home victory over Air Academy in the round of 16 of the 4A girls’ soccer playoffs on Saturday night.
“I was like, you know what, I’m going to go for it,” Hendricks said.
Air Academy goalie Katlyn Blacksten hesitated for a moment on the shot, clearly thinking it was going to bounce wide of the goal. But it sneaked in.
Kadets coach Espen Hosoien felt for his junior goalkeeper, a standout basketball player who picked up soccer this year when the team asked her to attempt to fill a void.
“We needed the help and she said, ‘All right, I’ll try,’’’ Hosoien said. “I told her she’s the bravest athlete on the field, just from having the guts to come out here and put her neck on the line and try. Without that experience, (goals like that) will happen, unfortunately.”
Fifth-seeded TCA (15-1) seized momentum from Hendricks’ goal and added two more from leading scorer Hannah Burgo – including a shot where she was virtually wearing a Kadets defender – to jump ahead 3-0.
Air Academy (11-6) scored in the final minute.
The Titans move to the quarterfinals for the first time since moving up to 4A three years ago. They lost as favorites in each of the past two seasons. They’ll travel to No. 4 D’Evelyn on Wednesday.
“It sounds almost silly, but getting past the second round is a big deal for us,” coach Blake Galvin said. “It was hanging over our heads, for sure.”
This one nearly went over their heads, too. Goalie Lauren Fletcher – who took over early in the season after an illness to RaeAnn Queener – sat back on a high shot late in the first half and for one heart-stopping moment thought it was going to bounce over her and into the goal.
“I think there’s a split second every time where you think it might go in, but you have to have confidence in yourself that you can get there,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher got there, and preserved the scoreless tie until Hendricks could put in the game-changing shot.
“I really did feel like whoever scores first,” Galvin said, “that’s probably going to do it.”