For 100 minutes on Thursday, Northwest and East traded their best attacks in what became a free-flowing, exciting match that was important to the top of the City League standings.
But not even two overtime periods could decide a winner as the two sides played to an action-filled 2-2 draw, leaving Northwest and East still alive with chances of winning a league title.
It was an exciting, exhausting, and well-played match between two surging teams in Class 6A in Northwest (5-3-1), on a 6-game unbeaten streak, and East (8-2-1).
“It was nerve-wracking and I was surprised we didn’t score more goals,” Northwest coach Bobby Bribiesca said. “We had chances, they had chances, that’s a game that could have been 4-3 or 3-4. I thought both teams played their hearts out and nobody gave an inch today.”
The first half was mainly a feeling-out process, as each side decided its best point of attack.
The difference came in the 29th minute when forward Emily Jensen tracked back and won a ball in the midfield and realized East’s defense had become out-of-shape in the back, leaving its left side exposed. The Northwest junior took a touch, then curled a perfectly-weighted through ball with her left foot in between the left centerback and the left back from 40 yards out onto a streaking Brittan Murray in the box.
The ball met Murray on the spot and the sophomore had a composed finish, one-timing her shot past a charging keeper and tucking it just inside the right post for her second goal on the season.
But East would respond with a dominant opening 15 minutes of the second half and netted the equalizer in the 55th minute on a goal from Anahy Guevara.
Less than 10 minutes later, the Blue Aces would take the lead as they turned a Northwest free kick into a fatal counter when Cami Tatman took the rebound into East’s box, beat one defender, then quickly poked it ahead to Guevara just as she was passing Northwest’s last defender for a breakaway.
Guevara showed why she is East’s leading scorer, as the junior calmly slotted away her 13th goal of the season.
“What I loved was that we’re finding ways to score goals when we need them,” East coach Dylan Gruntzel said. “As we go forward and we get into the playoffs, we’re going to need to find ways to score goals when we go down 1-0. I like that we were able to dig out of the hole and not just fall apart after we gave up one.”
But this game was just getting started.
Four minutes after East surged ahead, Northwest brought the score level again as the Abril Lucio to Emily Jenson connection came to fruition for the fourth time in the last five games.
This time it came on a corner, as Lucio played it short and received the pass back for a better angle. Her arching cross into the box found Jensen on the back post, and Jensen netted her 13th goal of the season by one-timing her shot into the ground and having it hop over the keeper.
The final 15 minutes of regulation was a back-and-forth affair, as each team produced quality chances down the stretch.
East nearly won the game in the 88th minute when the rebound of a shot on goal by Guevara landed at the feet of Tatman some 30 yards away from goal. Tatman’s shot was well-struck and appeared destined for the upper-90 of the goal but banged off the crossbar and over the goal.
“It did look like it was going in, but I know myself,” Tatman said laughing about her poor luck. “I kind of figured if it hit the crossbar it was going right over. I was waiting for it, so I wasn’t surprised.”
East had another shot find the crossbar in the 98th minute when Angelica Peterson beat a defender in the box and chipped in over the charging keeper, only to watch it smack the crossbar and bounce away.
“It was frustrating,” Guevara added. “And a little tiring, honestly. But I feel like we did good and we possessed well and created a lot of chances. We didn’t get the ‘W,’ but we worked hard.”
The draw keeps both Northwest (3-0-1) and East (5-1-1) in the running for the title, but Bishop Carroll (5-0) remains the frontrunner. Northwest would not only need to beat Carroll on May 9, but also for Carroll to tie or lose one of its other two games to have a chance to share a title. Meanwhile, East would need Carroll lose once and tie once, as well as Northwest to lose a game to have a chance for a tie.