As the Canterbury Sectional semifinal headed into penalty kicks, Blackhawk Christian senior Lydia Stayton had to change her shirt. Stayton had played at midfield for 80 minutes of regulation and 14 minutes of overtime, but the Braves were still deadlocked 2-2 with Canterbury.
Now, she was needed in goal, so she donned the neon yellow keeper’s uniform.
Canterbury’s first penalty attempt skipped low and to Stayton’s left, going into the goal, and she couldn’t even make a move to block it. The second was to the lower left corner, and Stayton couldn’t stop it despite diving in the correct direction. But on Canterbury’s third attempt by Isabel Schlabach, Stayton guessed correctly, leaning to her left and deflecting the shot as her teammates and supporters exploded into cheers.
Canterbury’s fourth attempt was also good – and then it was Stayton’s turn to come back out of the goal. Still wearing the goalkeeper jersey, she booted her attempt into the top right corner of the goal to give the Braves a 3-2 victory and send them into the sectional finals Saturday, where they will face South Adams.
“Our goalie who had been in there, she’s coming off a broken arm and a possible tear in her meniscus,” Blackhawk Christian coach Tim Kintz said of Sydney Seabeck, who played in goal during regulation time and overtime. “She’s good with her hands, but with Lydia on the field it gives us a different dimension. Lydia’s better laterally, because she can push off that knee. We knew going in that that was going to be the situation. I have shot charts, PK charts, so we knew who our shooters were going to be.”
The Braves (11-2-3), ranked fifth in Class A in the final coaches poll, lost their final match of the regular season 1-0 to No. 12 Canterbury (4-6-3), but they did so with just 10 players. The rest of the team (the sectional roster lists 17 players) was unavailable, many of them because they had been identified as having been exposed to a person who had tested positive for COVID-19.
“It was really hard not to put too much stock into that first game, but Canterbury’s a great program. They’ve won two state championships, so we have all the respect for them,” Kintz said. “And we knew that they would bring it to the next level. They knew our situation, too, so maybe they had some surprises for us today.”
From the beginning of the match, the Braves put the Cavaliers on their heels and had numerous scoring chances but didn’t break through until 5:39 left in the first half. Stayton took a free kick from the left side of the Canterbury goal and lifted the ball so that it landed in front of the net, where it was buried by senior Quinn Doden.
Canterbury responded nearly immediately with a goal by junior midfielder Lena Reelsen.
With just under three minutes to go in the match, Canterbury goalkeeper Georgia Gray blocked a shot and a Cavaliers defender went to clear it, but Blackhawk Christian junior forward Lily Helmuth got there first and put a high shut just under the crossbar and into the net to put the Braves up 2-1.
Canterbury immediately countered, as AnnaBella Brown scored with 2:20 on the clock to tie the game at 2.
Senior defender Aubree Vander Dussen said the Braves had been preparing for penalty kicks all week.
“It’s something you practice a lot. It’s not that it’s hard, it’s just that you can get in your head a lot,” Vander Dussen said. “And so what our coaches have been drilling into us is, keep doing the same thing, just keep placing it.”