Prep 2A girls' soccer: St. Joseph tops Manti in semifinal shootout, 5-4

Girls' soccer • Jayhawks reach 5th straight championship game.
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Sandy • St. Joseph goalkeeper Ali Kohler sprinted to the sideline, where a small but vocal crowd cheered her name as a throng of teammates mobbed her.

Minutes before, Kohler had blocked Manti's fourth shootout goal, propelling the Jayhawks to a 5-4 shootout win in the semifinals of the Class 2A girls' state soccer tournament Friday at Jordan High.

"As a goalkeeper, you're not really expected to save one, so the pressure is on the kicker," Kohler said. "Blocking one just gets your team so much momentum and belief in themselves.

"We have a lot of heart. I'm so proud of them right now, I can't even describe the feeling."

After regulation and two 10-minute overtimes, the teams remained deadlocked at 1-1. Heading into the shootout, the Jayhawks were confident they were on their way to a fifth consecutive title game.

St. Joseph connected on all five shootout attempts, and Katie Panushka's goal on the Jayhawks' fifth shot sealed the win.

"The PKs, we knew were going to beat them," said Jayhawks coach Alex Salvo. "We practice them all season long. We don't leave practice until every single one of them score a goal, so we knew we were ready."

The Jayhawks controlled the ball for much of the game and finally broke through for a goal from Panushka off a corner kick in the 54th minute. But Manti's Kelcie George tied the game minutes later with a goal that ricocheted off the top crossbar and into the net.

"We had so many opportunities, and basically they have one shot and they put the ball in," Salvo said. "But that's soccer. It's not the team who possesses the ball more — it's the one who puts it in the back of the net."

Though the Jayhawks had the better of the scoring chances, Templars goalkeeper Heidi Richardson was the equalizer, using an array of dives and stabs to keep Manti in the game.

"She's a great goalkeeper," Salvo said. "She stepped up. Balls that were supposed to go in, she got them."

St. Joseph will face Waterford in the title game Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium. This is the fourth consecutive season the two teams will meet for the 2A championship.