Goddard lifts Rebels over Wildcats in OT, 2-1

TOWNSHEND — Senior captain Ashley Goddard scored the game-winner in the second overtime as Leland & Gray defeated Twin Valley, 2-1, on Thursday in a typically dramatic soccer match between two bitter soccer rivals.

The win put the 5-5-1 Rebels over the .500 mark for the first time this season, and moved them up to No. 6 in the Division III girls' soccer rankings. The Wildcats fell to 4-5-2.

The Rebels knew the importance of this game. Before kickoff, Goddard said that “we need to step up our game because [Twin Valley] already has. If we don't execute our capabilities, the game will just slip through our fingers faster than we know it. This game could be the decisive factor to [whether Twin Valley or us] will get the home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. This game means everything.”

Through the first half of the game, the Rebels and Wildcats fought with equally intensive force, neither getting great opportunities to shoot. Great defense by Goddard kept the Wildcats out of the goal and put the ball back into the possession of the Rebels' offense.

Leland & Gray got the first goal just minutes into the second half. Junior Brittany Bills made an excellent juke play to dribble the ball tenderly into the opposing goal with ease.

With just minutes to go in regulation, Natalie Herrick booted an excellent hooking shot into the upper corner of the net to give the Wildcats the equalizer. Jordan Niles earned the assist.

The two teams fought relentlessly through the first overtime, as the Rebels became more consistent on the offensive end. A beautiful corner kick set up by sophomore Emily Thibault was headed by Goddard and soared just barely over the top post. Minutes later, Bills made a beautiful cross to the other lane where, unfortunately, no teammate was present to finish the job.

Both teams pressed on through the second overtime, and again, the Rebels were creating more chances on offense. Junior Stevie Roberts started off with a beautiful cross that rolled slowly in front of the goal where no Rebel was present to tap it in.

With just over two minutes left, the game looked like it would end in a tie, a result all too familiar between the two teams.

Then along came Goddard.

She won the ball at midfield, settled it, maneuvered skillfully past two Wildcat defenders, and nailed a hooked shot from 18 yards out that was just out of the reach of the diving goalie as the Rebels and their fans went wild with joy.

“I always play sweeper,” she said, “but because there was no time left in the game, I decided to run up and help out my offense. I somehow managed to get the ball and so I just dribbled it up and shot it; I just kept myself moving.”

“I'm speechless,” said Rebels coach Lucas Bates. “All I can say is 'Thank God!' We fought hard the entire game. It took our leadership and a lot of heart to finally make it happen.”

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