Tigers battle through extra session, lose DII title on PKs

Oak Ridge knocks off Roseville in shootout
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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It did not control the pace of play, nor did it create a ton of scoring chances, but the girls soccer team at Roseville High scratched and clawed its way through a grinding battle before yielding in a penalty kick shootout in Saturday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title game in Folsom. With the mercury pushing triple digits, the Tigers defense turned away one Oak Ridge chance after another, keeping the championship within reach all day long, as the teams played to a 1-1 tie through regulation and two overtimes. The Trojans finally overcame Roseville in the shootout, winning that competition by a 4-2 count. “Their possession of the ball was very strong,” said Roseville coach Pablo Gutierrez. “They took us totally out of our game.” Despite the Trojans ability to possess the ball between the 18-yard lines, Oak Ridge had little success penetrating inside the primary scoring area. Roseville’s defensive unit – sweeper Elli Tremblay along with Kelsey Decarlo, Shea Peters and Amanda Ellsworth – were everywhere for the Tigers and their resistance was impressive. Rachel Mercik and Cori Davis provided an anchor for Oak Ridge as the Trojans controlled the midfield, with Roseville’s Adrianne Bates and Amanda Susbilla providing a Tiger counter. Roseville’s runs into the offensive end came largely on long balls from the backs as they tried to find explosive striker Megan Looper up top. Early on, the strategy provided little threat to Oak Ridge, as most of the passes found their way into the middle of the field rather than towards the corners where Looper’s speed would prove advantageous. For her part, Looper was more active in coming back to balls in the midfield than is usually her custom. Kayla Granley, Kayla Granucci, Kelsey Roland and Bianca Guzman also had moments of solid play in the middle, as they battled a very skilled Oak Ridge group. “We gave a good effort all around,” Gutierrez said. “We just didn’t have a lot of chances to make something happen.” The heat was so intense on the turf at Folsom’s Prairie City Stadium that the game officials mandated a water break midway through each half. Just after the first half water recess, the Tigers got the game’s first really good opportunity. Bates had a free kick from just outside the 18-yard line, near the corner of the penalty area. The sophomore midfielder sent the ball on goal, but it was deflected away. As the ball bounded towards safety, Looper ran onto it and, with a good first touch, played it down to her feet. The resulting shot slipped just wide of the goal to keep the contest scoreless. The final two minutes before intermission were increasingly exciting as scoring chances increased. In the 38th minute, Oak Ridge forward Jessica Domenichelli ran onto a through-ball just behind the Roseville defense, but under extreme pressure from Ellsworth, the dangerous junior attacker’s shot sailed wide of the mark. Two minutes later, as the half was winding down, the Tigers found Looper with a step, but the senior forward was bumped off her line by the solid aggressive defense of Oak Ridge’s Sara Harris. Roseville missed out again five minutes into the second stanza. A corner kick from Susbilla, a sophomore called up from the junior varsity for the postseason tourney, split the Trojan defense, but Tremblay’s touch sailed high over the top of the frame. In the 15th minute of the second half, Oak Ridge finally found the mark, with Mercik taking a cross back towards the middle before launching a left-footed shot that found its way past the goal line for the first tally of the match. The advantage brought on some strategic changes from Gutierrez, who moved Ellsworth back towards the front in an attempt to pick up the equalizer. Four minutes after the Oak Ridge goal, Mercik found daylight once again, but her first touch escaped her and slid into the waiting arms of Roseville goalkeeper Ashlee Demateo. Gutierrez went for even greater pressure forward as the game reached its decisive 10 minutes, as he pushed his sweeper, Tremblay, up into the offense. The Tigers finally created the break that sent the game into extra time with just three minutes remaining. Once again, it was a set play on which Roseville capitalized. Susbilla unleashed a left-footed corner kick that bent sharply on its way just inside the near post. In an attempt to save the day, Harris got her head on the ball, but that contact only hastened it on its path into the back of the net. The own-goal evened the contest at 1-1 and after a final Mercik laser found its way wide of the mark in the closing seconds, the match moved to a pair of 10-minute overtimes. With the players running on fumes, both teams rested top scorers during the first overtime. “The heat took it out of everyone,” Gutierrez said. “Our defense was strong all day long, and we were trying just to survive those overtimes.” No severe scoring chances came during either extra session, and the match went to a penalty kick shootout with the title on the line. Roland and Decarlo buried Roseville’s first two shots, before Bates missed wide. Oak Ridge found the corner with each of its first four shots, so after Trojan keeper Danielle Murphy turned aside Ellsworth’s final shot, Oak Ridge was celebrating a section championship while the Tigers were left with another second place finish. “That’s a difficult way to lose,” Gutierrez said. “We gave a great effort, and that was a tough way to end it.”