By Cam Huffman
PikeView head coach Sam Hill admitted his team was probably not the most talented on the field in Friday’s AA-A girls state soccer semifinal, but for 85 minutes, its heart was enough.
Defending champion Bridgeport (16-3-3) scored in the sixth minute of overtime to win 2-1 and clinch a spot in today’s championship game at 10:30 a.m. against Sissonville, ending the season for the Panthers (15-6-1) in heartbreaking fashion.
“I’m awfully proud of my team,” said Hill. “What drives our success is heart and guts.
“The girls fought for 80-plus minutes and put themselves in a position to get a result against a team that’s awfully good. I hope the folks that watched the game understand the level of young ladies that play at PikeView.”
On the other side, the Indians were celebrating what seemed to be an unlikely return to the pinnacle. Nine players were lost from last year’s team, which defeated Fairmont Senior 3-2 to win the title, but head coach John Reese’s team continually found ways to win.
Friday’s triumph ended in dramatic fashion when freshman Reagan Lesher crossed the ball just before going out of bounds, and Alexis Lindsay controlled the pass and readied for a game winner. Her shot was initially stopped by PikeView keeper Kristen Brinkley, but when Brinkley couldn’t bring it in, Lindsay, a senior, was ready for the tap-in.
“She made a great move to beat the defender, beat the keeper to the goal and put it in,” said Reese of the winning goal. “Alexis works so hard, and she fought hard and put it in.”
“When I saw it hit the (keeper’s) hands, I thought, ‘Oh man, I had my opportunity,’” said Lindsay. “But I saw it drop off her hands and I said, ‘Here we go.’ I thought I was going to knock it way over, because that’s usually what I do, but I got really excited when I saw it in the back of the net.”
PikeView actually took the lead first, getting a goal in the 32nd minute from an unlikely source.
Normally a defender, junior Crysta Meekins was moved up to a center-midfield spot in an effort to keep Bridgeport from controlling the midfield. And when Meekins saw a ball come free, she went on the attack.
“I was just standing up there, and I saw the ball loose,” said Meekins, of one of just two PikeView shots on goal in the first 40 minutes. “I said, ‘I might as well go after it, because you never know what’s going to happen.’ When I did, it went in. It was amazing.”
The lead was short-lived, however, as 2 minutes later Bridgeport’s Mikayla Oliverio found the back of the net to tie the game.
“When you score, that’s probably when you’re the most vulnerable,” said Hill. “The emotion of scoring can take your focus away. If we could have made it to halftime, perhaps, with a 1-0 lead, the result might have been different.”
The first-half goals were the only scores the rest of the way until the overtime period, when the Lady Indians found a way to win another tight game.
“Our motto is nothing’s easy,” said Reese. “We’ve given up the first goal a lot of times. As strong as our defense is, sometimes it takes something to get our girls going. Once we’re down a goal, the fighting instinct comes on.”
The championship game will be a rematch of a Sept. 14 meeting in Sissonville that ended in a 2-2 tie.
“It’s going to be a good game,” said Reese. “They’ve got a good team, but we’ll be ready for them. The way our season has gone, it’s probably going to be another close game. We don’t get anything easy.”
— E-mail: chuffman
@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.