Girls soccer win against BV North brings redemption, sends Tigers to second round of playoffs

At 9 a.m. last Saturday morning, the Blue Valley girls varsity soccer team was informed of its first-round playoff opponent — the Mustangs of Blue Valley North, winners of the previous week’s game against the Tigers, 2-1. The Tigers, not having tasted victory since Senior Day almost a month prior and dealing with almost every type of injury imaginable, would have two days to piece together a game plan to save the season.

But this game, the ladies could finally say they had a few things going for them. A home crowd, for starters, made up the largest fan turnout of the season. Senior Parker Roberts, the Mustangs high-flying forward and perhaps the best girls player in the region, was out with a club soccer commitment. If there were any circumstances for the Tigers to win, they were best aligned on this night.

Both teams managed to register shots on goal, but except for one major North chance, the first half was wholly uneventful. That chance came at the feet of BV North forward sophomore Neha Igwe, scorer of both Mustang goals in their defeat of the Tigers a week ago. A through ball and a defense caught out of position put Igwe through on goal, but BV goalkeeper sophomore Lexi Palacio raced off her line to knock the shot away. Both teams walked off quietly at the half knotted at 0-0.

It seemed that the game and the crowd picked up the intensity almost as soon as the second half whistle blew. The pace of the game and the number of chances rapidly picked up as the aura of sudden-death elimination playoff began to be ingrained in the heads of each player. The Tigers used the counter-attack extremely effectively and had several sustained possessions but could not muster a dangerous shot on goal until overtime almost became a reality.

With just under five minutes remaining, the Tigers won a corner kick. Junior Bridget Howard went to take it, but it was cleared. However, the clearance fell right back to her feet, still near the end-line and the corner flag. Howard dribbled toward the penalty area and then lofted a curling shot over the goalkeeper and into the back of the net. After slogging through almost 80 minutes with just two shots on goal, the Tigers had the lead. Now it would be up to the defense to hold it.

For all returning varsity members, memories of last season’s 3-2 loss to North were still fresh, a game in which the Mustangs scored twice in less than one minute to tie the game, including a Parker Roberts bomb from 30 yards out with just three seconds left. The Mustangs went on to win the match in overtime. Last week, the Tigers held a 1-0 lead with 12 minutes left. A minute-and-a-half later, North led 2-1. The Tigers were facing a quick-strike team, and the defense had to hold — and hold they did.

While North held the ball for almost the entire last four minutes, they could not penetrate a determined defense. The Tigers ran the clock out on the game and the Mustangs season, prompting a triumphant celebration and postgame victory tunnel.

The ladies will have little time to revel in victory, however. On Thursday, BV will travel to the DAC to face EKL Champions and reigning 6A State Champions BV Northwest. The Huskies own a 3-1 defeat of the Tigers earlier on the year and have knocked BV out of the postseason two seasons in a row. The Tigers will put the season on the line a 6 p.m.