Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
WHEELERSBURG — Most freshmen haven’t developed poise in clutch situations just yet. But Annie Coriell isn’t like most freshmen.
After 110 minutes of scoreless play — 80 minutes of regulation and two 15-minute overtime periods — Coriell stepped to the line at the game’s biggest moment Tuesday and didn’t flinch.
With her team tied 3-3 in a penalty kick shootout with Athens in a Division II sectional semifinal, the freshman approached the ball, eyed the upper-left corner of the net and sent a rocket past the Bulldogs’ goalkeeper … giving the Pirates (14-2-1) a thrilling 4-3 PK win to advance.
“I’m just … I’m happy for my team,” Coriell said. “I was very excited to play, I was excited to shoot the shot. But I think that, altogether, the support I have as a team … I wouldn’t have been able to be as confident without the practice that goes in everyday.”
Not be outdone, Wheelersburg goalkeeper Morgan Bivens played just as big of a part in the Pirates’ win, deflecting Athens’ first penalty kick and holding the Bulldogs scoreless for 110 minutes.
Bivens had never participated in a shootout before. But you couldn’t tell that by her play.
“It was all very nerve wracking,” Bivens said. “When we went into overtime, I knew it was going to be hard [to get a win]. We maintained not letting them score throughout. When we went to the shootout, I was just really nervous. But I knew my team would have my back. That’s exactly what happened.”
In regulation, most of the action took place between the 20-yard lines. Then, in the overtime periods, each team took turns swinging at one another. Wheelersburg had plenty of chances to score in the first overtime while the story was the same for Athens (5-9-3) in the second.
However, neither team could find a way to get past either goalkeeper.
“[Athens’] ladies played their hearts out and we knew they would,” Wheelersburg coach Todd Jarvis said. “They gave us everything they had, just like we knew they would. We were fortunate enough to figure out a way. Sometimes, it just goes your way. It did tonight.”
In the first overtime, the Pirates had a direct path to the net off a corner kick at the 4:38 mark. However, the ball ricocheted out of the box and away from danger. Athens returned that favor in the second overtime, logging two corner kicks and squandering multiple chances to score from close range.
That’s how the drama reached its climax to produce a five-shot, winner-take-all competition.
“I had faith in every one of the girls [that took a turn in the shootout],” Jarvis said. “We practice that situation and we make sure we’re ready.”
Both teams missed their first penalty kicks as Bivens redirected the Bulldogs’ attempt and the Pirates’ shot rolled wide left. Then, both teams finally found net when Athens’ Anna Welser and Wheelersburg’s Jordan Jennings both connected.
Tied 1-1, Athens’ Anna DaBelko and Wheelersburg’s Ellie Kallner made it 2-2 before Claire Benyei and Alaina Keeney also scored, making it 3-3 heading into the final shot.
When the Bulldogs’ next shot sailed high, Coriell stepped to her mark, took a deep breath and sent Wheelersburg home a winner.
“That’s a huge spot for her to be in,” Jarvis said. “But I had all the confidence in the world.”
The win allows the Pirates to advance to a Division II sectional final at 11 a.m., Saturday. They’ll travel to Lancaster to take on top-seeded Fairfield Union.
“The further you go north, you get up to Chillicothe, Unioto and Fairfield Union, those are high-quality girls programs,” Jarvis said. “I always tell our girls that we’re playing them so that says something about who we are. We’re not intimidated and our girls are going to play their butts off. We’re going to give them everything they’ve got. At the end, you see what the score is and the winner moves on. That’s just how it works in the tournament.”