McNary forward Julie Dieker (6) keeps the ball in play up the sideline (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
The game might have ended in a tie, but to the McNary girls’ soccer team, it felt more like a loss.
Despite leading for the most of the contest, the Celtics gave up a goal on a corner kick with less than three minutes remaining in the game, allowing Sprague to come back and earn the 2-2 draw against McNary on Friday, Oct. 18.
“When you know you should beat a team, but end up tying, it kind of feels like a loss,” McNary defender Samantha Alfano said. “It was pretty frustrating. But the best team on the field doesn’t always win.”
After Sprague got off a pair of shots-on-goal in the first three minutes of the game, McNary cleaned things up on the defensive side and went into attack mode.
In the 16th mintue McNary midfielder Ariana Santana got off a clean shot deep in Sprague territory after a steal. Even though Sprague goalkeeper Kaile Reece was able to get a hand on the attempt, the ball trickled out-of-bounds across the back line, giving the Celtics a corner kick.
Taking advantage of set-piece opportunities has been a strength of McNary all season, and this game was no different. Santana sent a beautiful ball into the box on the corner kick to Alfano, who played the ball off her right foot before it could get to the ground and found the back of the net to put the Celtics up 1-0.
“We really capitalize on set pieces. That is how we score a lot of our goals,” Alfano said.
The Olympians threatened a couple times before halftime, but each goal-scoring chance was turned away by McNary keeper Ashley Doerfler.
Sprague, however, controlled the tempo to start the second half. And in the 43rd minute, the Olympians got on the board when Aspen DeConcini intercepted a pass from a McNary player and snuck a shot just below the crossbar to tie the game.
McNary defender Regann Donahue had a chance to give her team the lead back midway through the second half after receiving a great cross from Santana, but her header ricocheted off the post and was cleared out of harm’s way. But Donahue would help the Celtics get their second score of the game just moments later.
After the Celtics were awarded a corner kick, Donahue put a well-placed ball into of sea of blue and orange. The ball hit off a player’s head and landed at the feet of McNary forward Julie Dieker, who easily struck the ball past Reece for the goal.
“That’s been a point-of-emphasis from day one, and we do a good job of taking advantage of those chances,” McNary head coach A.J. Nash said about his team’s ability to capitalize on corner kicks.
The Celtics stayed aggressive and tried to give themselves an insurance goal in the final 10 minutes of the game.
It appeared that McNary had scored when Kennedy Buss put a ball into the net on a second effort after her first attempt was blocked. But a rare offsides penalty negated the goal.
Buss had another opportunity for a score moments later off a corner kick, but for the second time in the game, the shot hit off the crossbar.
The missed opportunities proved to be costly for McNary down the stretch.
In the 57th minute McKenzie Wernicke sent a corner kick directly into the net, curving the ball just out of the reach of Doerfler, tying the game at 2-2.
The Celtics pushed more numbers forward in the final two minutes to try and re-take the lead, but were unsuccessful.
“The better team on the pitch is not always the one that wins the game,” Nash said. “We should have put the game away. It’s a disappointing result, but I also have to give credit to Sprague. They came through when they needed it.”
McNary, however, was able to defeat Bend by a score of 2-1 in their final home game on Tuesday, Oct. 22, keeping their playoff hopes alive. The Celtics will play their final contest of the regular season on Friday, Oct. 25 at Mountain View. Game time is 4 p.m.