A two-goal lead in soccer is never safe. The University Heights Academy Lady Blazers' performance on Monday night is proof of that.
Down 3-1 in the final five minutes of regulation, Grace Pape scored two goals (one penalty kick and on in live-action) to push the Lady Blazers to penalty kicks against Murray, where UHA defeated the Lady Tigers 3-1 in PKs to earn the victory at the All "A" State Sectionals.
Coming back from a two-goal lead is a very attainable feat. But with five minutes left in regulation, that feat was very much out of reach.
"I didn't see it coming with five minutes to go," Lady Blazers' head coach Michael Parker said. "2-0 down at halftime, I thought we had enough chances that if we could get one early, we could turn it around. We got that goal in the first minute of the second half and at that point, I thought we had a great chance ... With five minutes to play, I certainly didn't think we were going to score twice."
But it was the senior Pape that drew the foul with four minutes remaining, drove home the penalty kick and moments later put an equalizer past Murray keeper Angela Gierhart as the clock was winding down.
Pape said drawing the penalty made the game-tying goal easier to get when the chance arrived.
"When Molly (Campbell) got that corner kick I told myself immediately, I said, 'I'm going to take this one,' " she said. "I made the Murray players commit to me and have to draw a foul or push me out wide. I'm really good on my feet, so I knew I could beat them ... By drawing that PK (earlier), it was just an easier way to goal."
Parker said after Pape scored on the penalty, he knew his team would get more chances, but it took one goal right near the final whistle to get it done.
"At that point, now it's 3-2 with two minutes to play and there's going to be more chances," he said. "They're going to play to just waste time and at the end of the day, they're going to try and score -- they're not going to leave themselves open. So I knew there would be another chance or two. But you're still not thinking you're going to get one right at the death -- it was fantastic."
From that point, the Lady Blazers had the momentum heading into sudden death penalty kicks.
"Whenever you're 3-1 up and lose two goals with five minutes to go they had to be feeling down," Parker said. "When Lainey (Burman) saved the first one, then the pressure was on. When she saved the second one, I knew we had some breathing room. Anytime you win or lose on penalties it's obviously stressful ... When Lainey made that first save, the stress kind of faded away."
For Burman, the senior goalkeeper, she was right where she wanted to be.
See Sectional/Page B3
"I feel like I'm more comfortable than in a normal game," Burman said. "There are no distractions, I'm not having to talk to our defense ... It's just me and one other person and it's a controlled situation."
For Pape, she knew that her keeper would be there to make the saves when the team needed them.
"I have total confidence in Lainey, I know she's an amazing keeper," Pape said. "She just is a great team leader (and) captain. She does anything her team needs her to do."
Burman confidently read the shooter and made the first two saves of penalties to give her teammates a little breathing room. She said she has always liked penalty kicks, and was happy the first two Murray attempts stayed out of the net.
"I was excited (I made the first two saves) so that my team would have some stress off them and they could take a breath," Burman said. "Also I'm doing the math in my head trying to figure out how many shots I have to save after that. It's just one little step after another."
From there, it was Pape, Ashlyn Parker and Piper Hancock that finished the job, pushing the Lady Blazers over Murray for the first time since 2014.
"This is why I like to coach at UHA," Parker said. "We're always the underdog, we'll always have the least players -- everybody's always got more options than we do. Then every year at the All 'A' region we punch above our weight. Other than just punching above our weight and winning the region, this year we were able to get over that final hump."
Burman said it had been a slow and steady push, but it felt good to finally get the win over the Lady Tigers.
"I'm really excited for our team," Burman said. "All the games we've played against Murray over the years. We've been slowly coming back ... We knew that this night was going to be our closest chance to get there."
For Pape, it has a bigger meaning.
"The last time we got past Murray was when my sister was a senior," Pape said. "By being the next Pape that gets to carry on that legacy and take her team to state, it just feels amazing."
The Lady Blazers will advance to play in the All "A" State Tournament Sept. 21 in Frankfort, and Parker said he is going to need his team to replicate their performance from Monday night in order to win some games at the tournament.
"We need to play the way we played (Monday) with the passion and the urgency that we played with, but we've also got to take a few chances," he said. "We can't give away a silly one like we did tonight -- and we've got to take our chances. This group of kids we've got is so resilient. I'm always confident that we can take care of business."
University Heights Academy 3, Murray 3 (UHA wins 3-1 in PKs)
MHS: 2 1 -- 3
UHA: 0 3 --3
MHS PK: XXOX-
UIHA PK: OOXO-
UHA: Pape (2 goals), Parker (1 goal)
MHS: Wray (1 goal), Bourque (1 goal), Jones (1 goal)