HERSHEY — A little over 10 minutes elapsed in overtime Saturday night when Grace Bendon sent one of her booming free kicks into the box.
“When I hit the ball, I immediately have to run back,’ Central Bucks West’s senior keeper said. “Sometimes, I really don’t see the second half of (the play). By the time I turned around, I just saw the ball hit the net — unreal.’
Bendon’s free kick —launched from about 40 yards out — was played by Lindsey Morgan, who expertly finessed a shot up and over Canon-McMillan goalie Kyra Murphy.
Jillian Nolan then finished things off, knocking in the game-winning goal to send the Bucks to a dramatic 2-1 overtime victory over the Big Macs, as West claimed its eighth Class AAA state title on a frosty night at historic Hersheypark Stadium.
“It’s been unreal,’ Bendon said. “We were named the team to beat in the beginning of the season and then we didn’t have the record of the team to beat. I said at the midseason, we will contend. Our coach (Jorge Rodriguez) said to us, ‘ in the playoffs, CB West is a different beast.’ And that’s right, we are a different beast.’
West’s defense was ferocious, Bendon made a half dozen saves, and Shae McCarty provided a tide-turning goal to allow the Bucks to overcome an early 1-0 deficit and win their first state crown since 2007.
Bendon, again, was key at both ends. Her unique and affective role of taking free kicks in the other team’s end played a key part in pushing West past a hungry Canon McMillan team vying for its first ever state championship.
“We have really good headers in Sophie McKnight and Shea, who can kick monster kicks, so why not have someone who can power kick and have our great headers in the box?,’ the keeper said. “It worked tonight.’
Once the ball was in the air, it became time for Morgan to work her magic.
“I was in the 18 and saw the ball getting crossed over,’ the junior recalled, “so I just saw it coming to me and I knew I needed to get to that ball so I could do something for my team. I saw the goalie come out so I took it over top of her.’
In a maze of blue and white, Morgan found the ball and knocked it where it needed to go. Emphatically, Nolan made sure it reached the back of the net.
“I was just running towards the goal and Lindsey had a great touch,’ the opportunistic sophomore forward said. “It was pretty much in — I just finished it. It was pretty much all Lindsey. I just touched it across the line.’
The goal was a perfect end result of West pressure mounting in the second half and overtime. The Bucks did not let up.