(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- As Katherine Inman prepared to take the last penalty kick for Sikeston against Notre Dame Wednesday night, the freshman had a plan.
"I just wanted to kick it low and into the corner," Inman said.
The freshman did just as she planned and the ball scooted past the outstretched arms of Notre Dame's Meghan Dohogne, giving Sikeston the victory over their arch rivals 4-3 in penalty kicks.
"I was so scared that everyone was counting on me," Inman said. "I just had to make that shot."
After Inman's kick went into the net, she was mobbed by teammates as the Lady Bulldogs beat their rivals for just the second time since the program began in 2002.
"It's freaking awesome, there is no other way to describe it," said senior Emily Eaves. "It's just the best feeling ever."
Inman's shot was just the last play in a tightly fought contest that featured plenty of drama and highlights that included Sikeston playing without head coach Derrick Long who was out after receiving a red card against Perryville on Tuesday.
Sikeston never missed a beat, however, and battled the skilled Notre Dame squad kick-for-kick the entire game.
After each team missed several shot attempts early in the game, Notre Dame got on the board first when Anna Wren scored off an assist from Allyson Bradshaw in the 25th minute.
Down a goal, Sikeston never backed down and continued to battle as sophomore goalie Asia Liggins denied shot-after-shot, none bigger than a save in the 52nd minute. As Notre Dame's Haley Wengert sent a blistering shot toward the top of the goal, Liggins leaped and snagged the ball, keeping the score at 1-0.
"I just tried to stay focused and stop everything that came my way because I really wanted to win this game," Liggins said. "I was just confident and focused."
"(Asia) was a powerhouse tonight," Eaves said. "Nothing was getting by her. You could tell she wanted it and she saved us."
As time ticked down, Sikeston finally got on the board when freshman Madison Chaney sent the ball to a streaking Keyonna Blissett who blasted the ball into the net, tying the game 1-1 and giving the Lady Bulldogs new life.
"Keyonna made a great goal," said Long who watched the game from a distance. "Emily Eaves and Kristin King were sending good balls for Keyonna all night and eventually you keep taking swings at a wall your going to find a crack and Keyonna found a crack."
With the game tied, Sikeston seemed to find some extra energy but neither team was able to score in the remainder of regulation.
"(That goal) gave us confidence and gave us the push we needed to keep going," Eaves said.
Sikeston continued to play stellar defense in the two 10-minute overtime periods but couldn't break the tie despite several scoring chances, sending the game to penalty kicks.
"When we get to penalty kicks, anybody can win that," Long said. "I'm more impressed with how we played throughout the game. Our defense held strong and I thought Asia had an amazing game. She kept us in it and Kelsey Jenkins had a really good game back there on defense."
Notre Dame grabbed the early advantage in penalty kicks, as Lacy Boeller made the first shot attempt while Sikeston's Kristin King had her shot denied by Dohogne.
Brianne Sanders then scored for Notre Dame giving the visitors a 2-0 advantage. However, Sarah Hopson put the ball past Dohogne for Sikeston's first goal.
Wren then had her shot sail over the bar, and Sikeston's Kelsey Jenkins took advantage as her shot hit the goalpost and ricocheted into the net.
"I was so nervous, especially when it went off the goalpost," Jenkins said. "I thought I had lost it for us but it went in."
Wengert put Notre Dame back on top 3-2 when her shot just slipped past Liggins but Eaves calmly stepped to the ball and kicked it into the corner of the goal, tying the game at 3-3, setting up the final shots.
In past seasons, Long had opted to put Eaves in at goalie for penalty kicks but on Wednesday, Liggins stayed in at goal and the move payed off.
With Dohogne taking the kick for Notre Dame, Liggins dove to her right and deflected the ball just before crossing the line, setting up Inman's final shot.
"I was nervous because I really don't have that much experience with penalty kicks," Liggins said. "I just tried my best and tried to stop everything."
"Asia is starting to figure it out," Long said. "She is starting to understand the diving left and right and she made one really good save there in the shootout, diving to her right, to let us win it. She is going to keep improving being a sophomore. We've been impressed with her all year."
The win improves Sikeston's record to 10-3 and matches the most wins in the program's history.
"That's pretty cool," Long said of his team equaling the mark by beating Notre Dame. "(Notre Dame) is a good rival to have. (Their level) is where we are trying to get too and Notre Dame's been there a while. So it is nice for them to come down here to our place and we take care of them."
Sikeston will be back in action tonight when they travel to Marion, Ill.
"We're trying to work on staying focused," Long said. "Sometimes this season we'll win a big game and then the next game we'll lose our focus so hopefully we can fix that."