Attention, Omaha Skutt soccer haters — the SkyHawks heard you and appreciate the motivation you provided this season.
Losing the 2012 Class B girls state championship match to Gretna was tough enough for Skutt's returning players to endure after winning titles in 2010 and 2011.
Having to listen to negative comments for the next 12 months gave Skutt that extra little spark that eventually led to Tuesday's 3-2 shootout victory over Elkhorn South in the 2013 Class B title game at Morrison Stadium.
“Everyone hating on us the whole year, it just feels awesome to prove it to them that we are the best team in the state,” Skutt forward Liz Bartels said. “All of us seniors were trying to go hard this year and win back our title from last year.”
It was Bartels who saved the day for the SkyHawks (15-1) in the school's sixth consecutive appearance in the Class B championship match. With just 35 seconds remaining in regulation and her team down 2-1, the Marquette recruit sent a free kick toward the Elkhorn South goal.
The ball slipped through the hands of Storm goalie Jordan Thiem and into the back of the net to make the score 2-2.
“It was intense, crazy, so much urgency,” Bartels said. “Honestly, it was such a rush. I just shot it and it just happened to go right through her hands.”
The SkyHawks scored on all five of their shootout kicks while the Storm (13-2) missed one.
“It's hard to give up that goal within the last minute of regulation time,” Storm coach Lindsay Wood said. “Losing a shootout, ever, it's awful. Losing it in your state championship and knowing you were that close is heartbreaking.”
Bartels' goal came just 2:19 after the Storm had taken their second lead of the match. As Skutt defenders were trying to clear the ball after an Elkhorn South shot, the ball instead went off the face of Storm sophomore forward Carsen Lundgren and bounced past Skutt goalie Ashley Malloy at 77:06.
Both teams had good chances to score in the two 10-minute overtime periods, but no chance was better than the shot by Skutt that bounced off one post, rolled straight across the goal line, hit the other post then rolled harmlessly back into play.
“I don't think I've ever been a part of a game like this where you score that late and then in the double overtime we hit two posts,” Skutt coach John Carlson said. “That's almost impossible to do. Then step up when there's so much pressure on these young kids, all these people watching and the state title on the line, to hit five out of five (shootout shots), all the credit in the world goes to them.”
Both teams scored once in the first half.
The Storm got things started with a shot by Kelsey Doerr from 12 yards out after she raced past a Skutt defender to get the ball. It was Doerr's 16th goal of the season and third of the state tournament.
Skutt tied the match at 13:23 when junior midfielder Natalie Johnson took a cross-box pass from Caitlin Rerucha and punched a shot from the left side into the right corner for her seventh goal of the season and, like Doerr, her third state tournament strike.
Quick thinking by Bartels helped make that goal possible. The pass from Rerucha rolled in front of Bartels, but she had a Storm defender on her hip while Johnson was uncovered just a few feet away.
Just another big play by one of the seven seniors who will leave the Skutt program as three-time state champions.
“What a way to go out,” Carlson said. “They've played for four straight titles, winning three of them. That's just a great, great senior class. I'm honored to put gold medals around their necks.”
Elkhorn South (13-2) .......... 1 1 0 0 0—2
Omaha Skutt (15-1) ........... 1 1 0 0 1—3
Goals: ES, Kelsey Doerr, Carsen Lundgren. OS, Natalie Johnson, Liz Bartels.
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