Law girls soccer falls to Bunnell on penalty kicks in state tournament opener
MILFORD >> Bunnell’s Haylee Norton was in the same situation as the rest of the Bunnell and Law girls’ soccer players Wednesday afternoon — none had taken a penalty kick in a CIAC game before.
The one difference for Norton was she either made hers or it was onto a second round of penalty kicks for the two teams to decide the Class L state tournament first-round game. Norton made sure the PKs weren’t extended.
Norton’s kick was good to the right side of the net, giving No. 18 seed Bunnell the victory over No. 15 Law. Bunnell (8-7-3) won it with just two of five PKs made.
“It was kind of like a blank mind. I didn’t feel a lot of pressure. That’s probably just me. When I scored, it was surreal,” Norton said.
Bunnell coach Sebastian Wojdaszka was looking for volunteers for that fifth PK just before it started.
“In practice, she was missing them, so that tells you how things can change,” Wojdaszka said. “I didn’t want to pick anybody. I looked at everyone else and (Norton) was like, ‘I got it.’ I couldn’t have predicted that.”
Nicole Collins was the only other Bulldog to make a penalty kick, which gave Bunnell a 1-0 edge. Bunnell goalkeeper Holly Crowther, a senior like both Norton and Collins, saved three PKs to help Bunnell advance to play at No. 2 seed Nonnewaug on Friday.
‘I was watching their eyes,” Crowther said. “It helped that they did go closer (to her). The nerves keep coming until the end. The nerves don’t go away.”
Emily McDaniel made a PK for Bunnell, but she struck the ball before the official blew his whistle. Her next attempt sailed over the crossbar. Cassidy White made hers to tie it at 1 before Norton’s heroics.
“It (the misses) kind of relaxed me. Less pressure to actually make it,” Norton said.
The loss prevented the Eagles (8-7-2) from winning their first state tournament game in school history.
“I told (his players) I thought we deserved the win and had higher percentage of chances,” Law coach J.D. Rhode said. “In my eyes, this was the best team I have ever seen at Law (six seasons). Obviously, I didn’t see those teams back in the day, but this was by far the best team I’ve coached.”
Law was originally supposed to host Bullard-Havens on Monday afternoon in the opening round. But a seeding discrepancy not noticed until Monday morning forced postponements of all first-round games for both the Class LL and L divisions so the bracket could be reseeded.
The Eagles didn’t look affected with the extra two days off as Samara Thacker buried one into the next just 23 seconds into the game. Crowther saved the first shot off the foot of White.
Olivia Kells tied the game for the Bulldogs with 12:44 left in regulation, making a run up the right side and firing past Law keeper Morgan Taylor.
The Eagles couldn’t make good on any of the seven corner kick attempts. Taylor needed to make one save in the two 10-minute overtime periods before PKs decided this game.
“After seeing the first five minutes of overtime, I was already deciding who my kickers would be because I almost knew it was going to penalty kicks, even though we had the chances,” Rhode said.