The Kapaun Mount Carmel girls soccer team believed it left no doubt who the better team was in its Class 5A regional championship game with Andover Central.
And there is an argument to be made that the Crusaders outplayed their adversaries on Thursday night at Stryker Complex.
But they didn't have goal keeper Evan Stamp — Central did. That's why the Jaguars were able to advance to the quarterfinals with a victory that came in the sixth round of penalty kicks after four overtimes couldn't settle a 1-1 tie.
"We just had to survive, pretty much," Central coach Stephanie Garcia said. "It was pretty stressful watching it from the sidelines, but I had a lot of confidence in them. We knew we had Evan back there."
Stamp was spectacular, single-handedly ensuring the Jaguars even had a chance to win it in penalty kicks.
Kapaun's attack was relentless, testing Stamp to her limits. Garcia thinks that Stamp responded with her best game.
The game was decided when Stamp stayed in front of Kapaun's sixth penalty kick, taken by Ashley Howell. Central's Leah Zarich then won it by sliding a shot inside the right post.
Kapaun defeated Central last season in quarterfinals.
"We had confidence in ourselves," Stamp said. "Without faith, then there's no point of playing the game."
Kapaun gained the upper hand in the 32nd minute when it scored on a counter sparked by Taylor Kruse. She beat a defender then passed to MacKenzie Heiman for the goal.
But Central found the equalizer just four minutes later when junior Paige Matacchiera pinned a pass from Shelby Sementelli just outside the box and wrapped a shot in the left side of the goal.
"I just pulled back and shot it," Matacchiera said. "I really didn't think it was going to go in. I knew it was going to be in the frame of the goal, but I thought they were going to save it."
Kapaun had a handful of game-winning attempts, but could never finish. It left a sour taste in coach Alan Shephard's mouth after the game.
"We felt like we clearly showed we were the better team tonight," Shephard said. "But sometimes the better team doesn't win. Maybe they were better penalty kick shooters, but not the better team. Sometimes soccer can be cruel and this is an example."
Andover Central (12-4-2) 1 0 0 0 0 0 — 1 Kapaun Mount Carmel (13-4-1) 1 0 0 0 0 0 — 1
Central wins 6-5 in shootout.
First half—Kapaun, Heiman (Tay. Kruse); Central, Matacchiera. Shots— Central 2-1-0-1-0-1-5; Kapaun 3-4-3-1-2-1-14. Saves— Central, Stamp 2-4-3-1-2-1-13; Kapaun, Lujano 1-1-0-1-0-1-4.