Pirates use PKs to knock Salisbury out of playoffs
The Salisbury girls' soccer team is well aware of the pressure that comes when a district playoff game goes to penalty kicks.
The Falcons rose to the occasion last season. In a district first-round game against Palisades in 2013, Salisbury scored on its first three penalty kicks while goalkeeper Jordan Kamp kept the Pirates out of net, advancing the Falcons to a district quarterfinals appearance.
This year's district tournament was all too familiar for the Falcons from their opponent to the penalty kicks that ensued after a 1-1 tie following regulation and two overtime sessions last week against No. 9 seed Palisades. The end result, however, was a bit different.
The Pirates scored on four of their five penalty kicks during Wednesday's District 11 Class AA first-round game at Salisbury High School to down the No. 8 seeded Falcons, 2-1, and end their season. The Falcons missed their first two penalty kicks before falling 4-2.
"It was a very good season," said Salisbury head coach Rick Babyak. "You never want it to end. I live for this. I love this. You start thinking about what the next thing is. I'm going to reassess. We're very proud of the accomplishments of this team.
"We could have folded with some of the things that happened to us through this year. And we didn't. We made it to leagues for the first time in a long time."
Mackenzie Groff put the Falcons ahead 1-0 midway through the first half with her 43rd goal of the season. After racing behind a Pirate defender, Groff possessed the ball, took a look at the cage, and fired a strike into the right side of the net.
That one-goal advantage stood for over 44 minutes until the Pirates got the equalizer from Sydney Bartone.
With under 17 minutes remaining in regulation, Bartone received a pass from one of her midfielder teammates. A couple of dribbles later, Bartone ripped a shot passed Kamp that made it a 1-1 game.
Bartone had another opportunity with 4:25 to play, but her deep shot was a foot wide left of putting the Pirates up by a goal. Kayla Reed's cross with less than three minutes in regulation skipped in front of the Falcons' goal, but no Pirate was there to punch it home.
While the Falcons' defense, which suited up just one starter from the beginning of the season, may have bent a bit, it certainly didn't break.
"We had the injuries and we have players sitting out that were starting defenders, but I am so proud of the players that played out there," Babyak said. "She [Sophie Niesenbaum] was such a great team leader today, and she had a great game herself. She keeps them going with her encouragement."
When the overtime sessions hit, all of the opportunities on goal seemed to come from the home team. Caylin Meikrantz attempted a shot on goal in the 10th minute of the first overtime, and Groff had a right-footed strike less than a minute later. Meikrantz also had a solid look on goal late in the second overtime.
None of those shots, however, resulted in a score in the sudden-death periods.
"They put a lot of pressure on us," Babyak said. "Towards the end of the game, she [Groff] was starting to find some space. Unfortunately, we didn't get that really good crack off or anything. Caylin Meikrantz had a couple of really good chances as well."