The Gretna Dragons girls varsity soccer team is performing extremely well in this year’s 2021 NSAA Class A state tournament, as they advanced to the finals to play Millard North at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 18, for the trophy.
The Dragons entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed, behind only No. 1 Lincoln Southwest, and have earned the right to play for a championship after beating both Kearney Catholic and Lincoln East.
Gretna’s quarterfinals matchup against Kearney Catholic was played Wednesday, May 12, and ended in a 4-1 Dragon victory. The Bearcats may have been labeled as an underdog entering the match, but they proved worthy of their state tournament berth. Gretna only had a 2-1 advantage after the first period but managed to keep Kearney scoreless in the second en route to a 4-1 victory.
Senior Sarah Weber finished with a hat trick on the day, with three goals to up her season total to 47 — which broke the Class A girls record for most goals in a single season.
“I didn’t even know I broke it, I thought today I tied it.” said Weber. “But I’m just at a loss for words right now, I’m pretty proud of myself.”
Gretna’s following match in the semifinals was against a very tough one-loss Lincoln East team on Saturday, May 15, and ended in a shootout. The highly-anticipated matchup began with a Gretna goal off the head of Ava Makovicka after being set up by a corner kick.
The 1-0 Dragon lead would last throughout most of the first period, but the talented Lincoln East squad found the back of the net off of a deep free-kick from Haley Peterson and the teams would go to half knotted 1-1.
Both teams’ goalkeepers had themselves a busy second period, but neither would give up a goal as two of the states’ top-scoring teams would go into two overtimes with a 1-1 score. Gretna and Lincoln East both had opportunities to finish the game with goal opportunities in the second overtime, but a shootout was needed for the first time in the 2021 Class A girls state tournament.
Fans scurried their way over to the south-side goal of Morrison Stadium as the Dragons and Spartans prepared for penalty kicks. Lincoln East nailed their first PK prior to Weber being saved for a 1-0 lead, then the Spartans nailed another before Savannah DeFini made it 2-1 in the shootout. Another successful East PK followed by Sydney Zabloudil’s successful PK made it 3-2 before Gretna’s Rainna Daharsh stepped up with a huge save on East’s next PK to keep it 3-2.
With an opportunity now to tie the shootout, London DeFini found the back of the net to make it 3-3 in a huge swing of momentum. Both teams then traded PKs to make it 4-4 before an East player missed off the right post as Gretna’s Taylor Daffer fooled the keeper to seal a very emotional PK-shootout win in the semifinals.
“I went in to it [the final PK] very nervous,” said Daffer. “But I was also really excited and proud of my team for allowing me to get redemption on a PK that I missed earlier in the season.”
The missed penalty kick that Daffer is referring to came on May 6 in their only loss of the 2021 season against none other than Millard North in the recent district championship. The marquee rematch is slated for Tuesday, May 18, at 5 p.m. with the Dragons in search of their first-ever Class A state championship.