With the wind at her back on a blustery day at Rotary Soccer Field, Sarah Irving stood on the goal line and offered an icy stare to Northside Christian North Stars shooter Emily Friesen, knowing if she made the save the Westside Academy Warriors would have their first win at the North Central zone single-A girls soccer championship.
Irving reacted just in time to get her hands in front of Friesen's chest-high shot, and the celebration was on for the Warriors Thursday afternoon.
The Prince George team still has a long way to climb to lock up a berth in the B.C. high school championship tournament, set for June 2-4 on the same field, but the Warriors' 2-1 victory over the North Stars of Vanderhoof kept their provincial goal in sight.
"This is actually my first year of playing soccer and shootouts are always stressful -- that's the second one I've ever done," said Irving. "It's fun but very stressful at the same time."
In the five-round shootout, Whitney Anderson, Brooke Tower, Walker and Claire Davidson scored for Westside, while deVries, Bublitz, and Julia Friesen found the mark for Northside.
"It's pretty tough, when you almost have it," said Stars goalie Mary-Skye Gill.
Jessica deVries opened the scoring for Northside about 15 minutes into the second half -- sprung free on the right side of the field before launching a low shot beyond the reach of Irving. Until that point, the Warriors had dominated ball possession but hadn't severely tested the Northstars goalie.
The Warriors tied it on a free kick from 40 yards out -- a hard floating rainbow off the right foot of striker Jaymie Walker high over the outstretched arms of Gill with six minutes left in the second 35-minute half.
The Stars came close to ending it in regulation time when Nicole Bublitz used her speed to get around her check. From just outside the box she beat Irving with the shot but the ball rolled only a few inches wide of the post.
"We played a game before (a 3-2 loss to Lakes District of Burns Lake Thursday morning) and we were a bit tired and near the end there were a bit of nerves, but we always know how to calm each other down," said Walker.
"I feel good about the way we played and we're going to bring it harder, smarter and faster (in today's 8:30 a.m. game against Fort St. James). I'm proud of us, we did really well and we always work well together as a team."
Neither team could muster much offence in the two 7 1/2-minute overtime periods. Walker was only shooter to get close to either net and she put her shot wide.
"The girls played a hard game and moved the ball around like we've practiced doing and we got a bit panicky in some situations, but that's OK, we prevailed," said Warriors head coach Daniela Johnson. "They were tough defending and were able to get most of their shots in in the shootout and Sarah definitely saved us. She's a first-year soccer player and she's done very well for us, being a very confident, loud force in the back, keeping the girls going throughout the game."
On the adjacent field, Colby Wilson scored the winner in the fourth minute of the second overtime period to give the Fort St. James Falcons a 1-0 win Thursday afternoon over the Fraser Lake Cougars.
In the other morning game, Fort St. James blanked Northside 2-0. On Wednesday, Lakes District edged Northside 3-2 in overtime and Fraser Lake topped Westside 3-2.
Heading into the final day of the tournament, Fort St. James and Lakes District are tied atop the standings, each with five points, followed by Fraser Lake with four. Westside and Northside each have two points. The Falcons are guaranteed a spot in provincials as the host team. The two other highest-finishing North Central teams will also qualify.
In today's other games, Lakes District plays Fraser Lake at 8:30 a.m., Northside and Fraser Lake meet at noon, and Fort St. James takes on Lakes District at 12:30 p.m.