High school girls soccer: Showdown between Murray and Olympus comes down to penalty kicks, where Titans triumph
Olympus goalkeeper Callie Droitsh made two key saves during the game-deciding shootout, helping lift the Titans past the Spartans 1-1 (3-1).
HOLLADAY — Talk about pressure.
All eyes were on Olympus goalkeeper Callie Droitsh late Thursday afternoon as she stood alone in goal with her heels planted firmly along the goal line.
After 80 minutes of regulation and two 10-minute overtime periods, the Region 6 showdown between the Titans and the rival Murray Spartans had come down to penalty kicks.
“It is a great feeling. With the adrenaline, it is amazing. I’m just glad that we pulled it out. My team, we did so good and worked so hard until the very end.” — Olympus goalkeeper Callie Droitsh
That meant that either Droitsh or Murray keeper Alexis Bates were going to walk away the hero, as long as they made a save or two.
As far as Drotish was concerned, there was no pressure at all, though. No, she didn’t believe she’d stop every Murray shot attempt. Rather, she knew she wouldn’t.
“There is no pressure on keepers in PKs,” she said. “You are set up for failure. You have like a 20% chance of saving it. If you don’t make the save, it is OK. But when you do make the save, you are the hero of the game.”
After making back-to-back saves, on shots by Murray’s Sophie Post and Ella McKenna, Droitsh was indeed the hero, helping give Olympus a 1-1 (3-1) win over Murray.
“It is a great feeling. With the adrenaline, it is amazing,” said Droitsh. “I’m just glad that we pulled it out. My team, we did so good and worked so hard until the very end.”
Droitsh ended up saving 50% of the penalty tries of the Spartans, getting beat only once, by Karime Antonio (a fourth Murray shot hit the crossbar). Necie Gubler, Emma Neff, and Megan Jewell, meanwhile, came through with goals for the Titans, making Droitsh’s effort worth it.
“We did our job in penalty kicks,” Droitsh said. “We all did our individual jobs.”
The Olympus coaching staff included.
“We practice penalty kicks every day,” said Droitsh. “Our coaches are really good, really great coaches, and I love the dynamic of our practices and they set us up for success every game. Every game we come out and are confident in our coaches’ decisions. They chose the five (players) who shot and they chose well.”
It was a bit of a surprise that the game would go to penalty kicks, especially tied at one goal apiece.
The Titans and Spartans boast two of the most prolific scoring offenses in the 5A classification. Thanks to Sammy Sofonia’s classification-best — and it isn’t close — 23 goals this season, Murray came into the game averaging 5.5 goals per game. Olympus, while more balanced when it comes to goal scoring, wasn’t too far off the pace with 4.875 goals scored per game.
And yet, time and again Thursday, it was the defenses that showed up.
Droitsh and the Olympus back line, composed mainly of five rotating players — headlined on this occasion by Abby Holtby and Jewell — made play after play after play. And much the same could be said for Bates and her defensive backs on the other side.
While Sofonia did find the back of the net for Murray’s lone score in regulation — Olympus’ lone goal came from freshman Emily Sjoblom, assisted by Fifi Ward — the Titans’ back line was arguably the best unit on the field.
“They really worked together,” Olympus head coach Jamie Evans said.
It has been a process for that unit, she added, a long and arduous one, but it paid off against the Spartans.
“We’ve really tried to create a defensive unit within our team,” Evans explained. “They have gotten really good at supporting each other and working for each other, off of the ball as well as with their 1 v. 1 skills. We’ve really worked hard on that.”
Against Murray, they worked hard on high pressure, in an attempt to stifle Sofonia. And save for her goal in the 66th minute, it worked (Sofonia did leave the game in the second half after suffering an injury shortly after her goal, but returned for penalty kicks).
“Any time she received the ball with her back to our goal, we wouldn’t let her turn around. That was our goal,” said Evans. “High pressure as soon as she got the ball.”
With the win, Olympus (8-1, 7-0) claims sole possession of first place in Region 6, ahead of Murray (7-2, 5-2), Skyline (6-2, 4-2) and Brighton (4-4, 4-2). The Titans’ are sure to move up in the UHSAA RPI rankings as well, after coming into the game ranked No. 5, right behind No. 4 Murray.
Still, there is work to be done, said Evans.
“Every game we can get better,” she said. “We did not play a complete game today. We played hard. We played well, but it wasn’t complete. I believe that we can still improve. I know that and it is our job to get that out of them by the time we reach the postseason. We want them playing their absolute best, consistently, for 80 minutes each game. We just have to keep working towards that.”