Washington-St. Louis goalkeeper Lizzy Crist sat out the first two rounds of the penalty shootout in her team’s Division III semifinal against powerhouse Messiah. Washington coach Jim Conlon turned to backup goalkeeper Amy French to begin the shootout, but Crist stepped back in to lift Washington to a 3-2 shootout victory.
“To be honest it’s hard to remember [the shootout],” Crist said. “It’s kind of a whirlwind of emotion during that. I had to go into the PK thinking ‘This could be that last one and I have to make the save,’ so I kind of motivated myself with that. It was just an exciting moment and it’s hard to keep track of."
Making three straight saves, two of them game-saving, Crist was the Washington’s hero on the day. After making a diving save to her left on Messiah forward Nikki Elsaesser, Crist’s work on the day was done as Messiah defender Kayla Shults’ penalty sailed over the bar to give Washington a 3-2 penalty shootout win.
“To have the mental fortitude to forget the last play and go into the next play,” Washington coach Jim Conlon said after the win, “is just a credit to [Crist] and how well she can compartmentalize the moment when she’s on the field.”
Before Crist’s penalty shootout heroics, she made a similar clutch save in the 97th minute. As Messiah forward Nikki Elsaesser ran into the box ready to finish past Crist, she stopped Elsaesser’s shot at point blank to keep the game going.
Regulation, however, ended 1-1 and Messiah looked for the better part of the game like the winning team. A close game brought together differing styles of soccer. Messiah’s patient passing-oriented game combined with Washington’s attack-minded play to force the teams all the way through two 10-minute overtime periods and into penalties.
“I’ve been here before, so that’s what goes through your mind,” Messiah coach Scott Frey said of the shootout. “Down 2-1, doubt starts to slip in. It’s a mentality game, sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t, so you keep training.”
Frey’s Messiah team had previously won four of the last seven national titles in Division II women’s soccer. The Falcons powered through the Division III tournament this year, scoring 17 goals on the way to the semifinal.
After going up 1-0 in the 41st minute with a goal from forward Holly Burgard that sailed into the top left corner after being hit about 17 yards away, Messiah came into the second half with control on possession and attacking chances. Burgard’s goal was assisted by Erin Sollenberg, who knocked a pass back to Burgard for the finish.
In the 74th minute, Katie Chandler equalized for the Bears. Against the run of play, Washington sent a cross into the box that was passed back by midfielder Megan Renken for Chandler to finish with a half-volley.
“I think when it came down to the last 25 minutes you think about your season and everything ending,” Chandler said. “We pressed really hard at the end and ended up getting a goal out of it.”
The goal the Falcons conceded to Bears Friday afternoon was its first in the tournament and only the fourth on the entire season.
“They pressed us to every limit we had,” Conlon said. “We’re extremely pleased about the win and [the game was] kind of a microcosm of our season; the girls never give up. They always have each other’s back and we were fortunate enough to get today’s result.”