HORSHAM>> Goaltending is often the great equalizer in soccer, especially in the post season. A bad night from your goalie and you may be going home early. Adversely, a great performance from the net minder and you may be through to the next round. Thursday night, St. Basil got the latter from goaltender and co-captain Brooke Shissler.
“She (Shissler) has saved us all year,” St. Basil head coach Bob Opalka said. “I told her at the beginning of the year that she’s the best goaltender in our league and if she keeps what she did tonight up, I’m going to start calling her the best keeper in the state. She’s just unbelievable.”
It sounds like awfully high praise, but she definitely earned it. Shissler made 10 saves in regulation and one during penalty kicks as St. Basil beat previously undefeated Pine Grove 1-1 (3-2 in penalties) to advance to the next round of the PIAA Class AA tournament.
It was a somewhat slow start for St. Basil. Pine Grove controlled the possession pretty handily early on and was taking the game to the Panthers.
Shissler was forced to make 5 first half saves as Pine Grove forward Rachel Edge used her speed to race past the Basil defense and dictate much of the first half. However, even with Edge running around up top they were able to keep it tied at 0 going into half and give themselves a chance moving forward.
“I think they were controlling possession on us pretty well after about the first 20 minutes,” Opalka said. “There was a period of time there where they really controlled the ball and our defense and Brooke (Shissler) kept us in it especially in that first half.”
Eventually, the Cardinals would find the back of the net.
Edge broke free on a counter attack cutting across a defender and beating Shissler less than three minutes into the second half to make it 1-0, but the Panthers wouldn’t be discouraged. As a matter of fact, the exact opposite happened.
From that point on they became a different team than they had been for the first 43 minutes of the game. They controlled possession, they took the game to the Cardinals, and they stopped letting the Pine Grove attack dictate the pace of the game.
“I didn’t switch up any tactics, I think they (the team) switched up their own tactics,” Opalka said. “They realized now that we’re down we have to attack more, we have to get more chances up top and we started to get more possession.”
That increase in possession would lead to more chances for the Panthers, and eventually to an unbelievable game-tying goal.
About 10 minutes after Edge put the Cardinals in front, Cheryl Remolde took a ball in the middle of the field, let go of a perfect through ball down the right wing and watched as Maddie McCrea ripped a beautiful strike from over 20 yards out into the top shelf to tie the game at one and give her team a second chance.
“Cheryl played a perfect ball through and it was just like practice,’ McCrae said. ‘I practice that shot all the time from the outside, over the goalie’s head, and into the corner and it went in, and after it went in I just kept thinking about how we had to keep it going.’
They rest of the game was a back and forth affair that would eventually lead to two golden-goal extra time periods and finally, when no one scored, penalty kicks.
Both goalies saved the first shot they faced. Basil’s Laurn Baldo and Brielle Piecyk both tucked their shots into the back of the net and a Pine Grove miss put Basil into the driver’s seat.
Up 3-2 in penalties and the final Pine Grove shooter staring down Shissler with the ball on the spot, Faith Shiffer sent her attempt over the crossbar and clinched the win for the Panthers as their players rushed towards their goalie to celebrate.
“I just told myself to stay calm and not to think too much about it in the penalty kicks,” Shissler said. “I have to see their hips, make a good guess and don’t think too much about what’s going on and I think I was able to do that tonight.”