When you’re on a winning team, it’s easy to maintain your competitive spirit.
Practices become more tolerable, gearing up for...
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Was there some tension as they waited?
Perhaps somewhere there was, Anna Thorndike surmised. But if there was any uneasiness on the St. Mary's sideline Saturday at U.S. Cellular Community Park, the senior forward wasn't the one feeling it.
Thorndike booted in a thrilling equalizer with a fraction of a second remaining in the first half — a hair-raising shot that did not immediately count — and netted the go-ahead goal with 14 minutes, 17 seconds left to play, helping lift undefeated St. Mary's to a heart-stopping 3-2 victory over well-balanced Corbett in the 3A/2A/1A state quarterfinals.
"Once the audience went, 'Wahhhh,' I thought, 'Yes, they counted it!,'" Thorndike said of her last-second score, which tied the contest at 1 entering intermission. "I was kind of just brooding over the scoreboard like, 'They are gonna count it, I'm just gonna wait.'"
Wait they did, for several anxious minutes, until a ruling was finally made: the goal was good.
What ensued, as St. Mary's head coach Dave Potter put it, was the Crusaders' "greatest gut check of the year."
St. Mary's, No. 2 in the Oregon School Activities Association rankings, will next host Oregon Episcopal in a state semifinal match on Tuesday.
The Aardvarks (11-3-2), ranked third by the OSAA, beat Blanchet Catholic 3-0 on Saturday. The Crusaders (14-0-1) were the state runners-up last year and have now advanced to three straight semifinals. St. Mary's beat Oregon Episcopal 4-1 in the semis in 2010.
Before St. Mary's could take its first lead against Corbett — senior Sarah Bennion accomplished that with a well-defended goal in the 48th minute, giving her team a 2-1 edge — the Crusaders first had to even things up at 1.
After struggling to keep up with the Cardinals (11-3-1), it appeared St. Mary's was destined to head into halftime trailing 1-0. But with about five seconds remaining, the Crusaders earned a direct kick. Thorndike, eyeing the scoreboard and realizing there simply wasn't enough time to execute the play that her teammates were setting up for, rolled the ball onto the field, waited for it come to a stop and then launched a towering attempt from about 20 yards out with 1.1 seconds left.
The ball ripped through high near the top of the post, just past the outstretched fingertips of gritty Corbett goalkeeper Kendall Sheerman.
"There had to be 0.1 or 0.2 seconds on the clock when it went in," Potter said. "That's how close it was."
Said Thorndike: "I was like 'Oh crap, I've got to shoot!' so I kind of just threw it on the ground and hit it with my left."
For several minutes afterward, St. Mary's Athletic Director James Joy, Corbett AD Jean-Paul Soulagnet and an official huddled together in conversation as both squads waited on the opposite end of the field.
Joy finally departed from the talks and entered the press box, where he gave the scoreboard operator the go-ahead to give the Crusaders the goal.
Thorndike said she knew it was a keeper.
"After it made it in, all my teammates jumped on me," said Thorndike, who raised her arms and smiled brightly when the point for her team lit up the board. "I didn't think they wouldn't count it. It didn't occur to me why they wouldn't count it.
"But I thought, 'If it counts, it counts, if it doesn't, it doesn't.' We'll get another one."
Turns out, they'd get a few more.
After Bennion's goal, Corbett's Emma Peterson evened things at 2 by booting in a far-post attempt with 21:50 to go. Peterson also netted the first goal of the match in the 17th minute, heading in the ball on a Makenzie Ford corner kick.
Keeping their cool, Bennion and Thorndike teamed up for the deciding score in the 67th minute. Thorndike took a perfectly placed cross from her senior teammate, who had dribbled down the left side of the field and into a corner, and knocked it in.
"I don't think there is any tension with Anna; in Anna's character, in her being," Potter said. "She never panics, she never shows that she is under pressure — if you look carefully you'll sometimes see her surrounded by two or three players manipulating the ball and smiling. She enjoys it."
St. Mary's goalkeeper Viv Juncal and Sheerman — who are both freshmen — each made several big-time stops. After the emotional, hard-fought game, Juncal's Crusader teammates gave her a round of applause.
Both goalies faced a firing squad of oh-so-close shots and managed dangerous situations, but it was St. Mary's depth and its second-half domination of possession that made the largest difference.
"Let me tell you, this was, in the purest sense, a state tournament game," Potter said. "There was nothing lacking in that opponent."
The win, Thorndike said, is invaluable for her team's confidence.
"We've got 10 seniors, but most of them haven't been playing varsity for as long, so it's a big deal because it's a totally different pace," she said. "But it was fun and we kind of proved ourselves a little bit."
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email email@example.com