Nearly 70 minutes had gone by and Jackson’s girls soccer team trailed Rock Springs, but the Saturday afternoon contest was far from over at the high school’s synthetic fields.
After knotting the game at 1-1 with a penalty kick, the Broncs went into overtime and picked up where regular time left off. Selah Hunter scored near the end of the first 10-minute bonus period, keeper Sidney Nash maintained composure the rest the way and Jackson escaped into spring break with a 4-0 record after the 2-1 4A West conference win.
“I think seeing actual competition — we breezed through our first three games — seeing actual competition brought out the best in us this game,” Hunter said.
Surely the Broncs looked the best they have so far this young season, but it took an afternoon of nail biting to get through it.
After playing on their heels much of the first half, Jackson was one moment away from breaking through for the first goal of the game midway through the second half.
A ball played in front of the net perfectly was missed, the Tigers goalie made the save and Jackson plodded back on defense. A few minutes later Rock Springs broke through, an absolute rocket by Tigers forward Novaleigh Moses put up and away from Jackson keeper Sidney Nash.
But instead of tucking tail the Broncs went forward. With just over 11 minutes left, freshman Taya McClennen was brought down in the box, the line judge’s arm went up and Jackson was awarded a penalty kick.
A momentary sigh of relief, but who would take it?
“When that foul happened, I looked at my other coaches,” head coach Kristen Pizarro said. “Selah? Taya? [Melissa] Kussy?”
But the coaching staff stayed silent. The players themselves figured out who’d step to the line, and it was the freshman.
Her strike was low and away to the right, but the Rock Springs keeper dove to keep it out. McClennen collapsed on the rebound and slotted it away, knotting the game at 1-all with 11 minutes left to play.
“I’ve been working on my PKs for a while, but you learn from when you’re like four, you follow the PK,” she said. “I like to score goals, and so I was there to get it.”
The next 10 minutes passed without a score, sending the game into two 10-minute overtime periods. With just over three minutes left in the first overtime, Hunter dazzled. She took the ball inside the Rock Springs 18, danced through several defenders, got the ball on her left foot and blasted it away for what was ultimately the winning goal.
“When you see a loose ball, and the defenders are not super confident with it at their feet, you just have to follow it,” she said. “I’m not left footed, but the energy was there and I just drove it.”
That goal stood as the final of the day, but it didn’t come without heroics out of the back. With less than a minute left in the first overtime, Rock Springs got in on Nash in goal, who saved the first shot and then followed up to deny the rebound opportunity.
And after nine minutes went by in the second overtime, she came out to play the ball against a Tiger who had broken away, deflected the ball and got steamrolled. That’s as close as Rock Springs came to securing the tie.
“I think the first one, I was just in the right spot at the right time, and then people started cheering,” Nash said. “And when people are positive it helps, because then I kind of get hype and can do more.”
That victory followed an 11-1 drubbing of Green River on Thursday, which has Jackson at 4-0 overall and 2-0 in conference play so far. That’s about as good of a start as Pizarro and company could hope for.
But Jackson won’t return to the game field again until April 9, as athletes head out on spring break. There’s a lot to celebrate already – but that layoff is cause for concern, too.
“It’s a real challenge for us. I feel great about us right now,” Pizarro said. “But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about where we’re going to be in a week and a half.”
“I feel great about us right now.” — Kristen Pizarro broncs head coach