La Grande spent a large portion of practice Monday working on penalty kicks in case one of its playoff games reached that point.
The Tigers never expected, however, to be in that situation Tuesday against Yamhill-Carlton/Gaston.
“At the beginning I definitely did not think it would come to that. I’ve always heard of it happening,” Kara Gooderham said. “We practiced for it and it actually did (happen).”
That extra practice paid off. Lara Insko and Gooderham both put home PKs after the teams played 100 scoreless minutes to give La Grande the win over Yamhill-Carlton/Gaston, 1-0, in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs.
“(Most) nerve-racking game ever,” La Grande goalkeeper Faith Akers said.
The finish even left Rice searching for what to say.
“I have no words to express how I feel right now. The girls came up huge,” Rice said. “They played amazing the full 100 minutes. I don’t even know what to say. It was awesome.”
In the penalty round, Megan Gaibler put in the first kick to give Yamhill a 1-0 lead. Jenny Schiller’s attempt in round one hit the crossbar, but Yamhill’s Josie Wright did the same on her attempt to open round two.
Insko then calmed her racing heart to put in a crucial kick and tie the score.
“I was actually hyperventilating beforehand. But I took a deep breath, stepped up, the crowd went quiet, and I just kicked it,” she said. “Our work on placement paid off.”
Allie Amerson pulled her third-round attempt wide left for Yamhill, and Gooderham’s kick was true to give La Grande the lead. Akers and Yamhill keeper Sage O’Loughlin both recorded saves in round four, and with the game on the line, Kasey Vance pulled the potential tying kick for Yamhill to the left, sending the LHS team into a frenzy and causing fans to pour onto the field.
“When she pulled it wide my heart just stopped, and I was so grateful,” Akers said.
It was, perhaps, a fitting conclusion to a contest that saw both teams shine on defense throughout. The game, though, was also marked by missed opportunities, especially in the second half.
In the 70th minute, Alaina Carson took a pass over the top and dribbled to the top of box for a shot, but O’Loughlin, who had eight saves, made the stop. Wright pushed a shot high in the 73rd minute for Yamhill, and a minute later Akers turned away a shot by Bella VanHorn.
Carson and Wright both then traded shots a minute apart that the respective goalkeepers saved, and Gooderham, with perhaps the final good look in regulation, pushed her attempt wide in the 79th minute.
Yamhill-Carlton was the aggressor in overtime, registering nine shots to La Grande’s four in the two 10-minute sessions. But Akers, who recorded 10 saves on the afternoon, recorded five in the extra sessions to deny Yamhill.
The victory ended a recent run of first-round struggles for La Grande. The Tigers had lost their previous three first-round games — all in La Grande — by a combined score of 7-1. It also ended a four-game losing streak in the playoffs dating back to the 2013 championship game.
“I really think going into this game we were all super nervous,” Akers said with regard to the team’s recent playoff history. “It’s been four years wince we won a playoff game. But now that we’ve won this i think our confidence is just going to go through the roof.”
La Grande finished with a 20-18 edge in shots despite being at a large disadvantage in the category in the extra periods.
La Grande (13-0-0) will host a quarterfinal matchup Saturday against Molalla. The Indians (14-1-0) reached the round of eight with a 1-0 win over Cascade.