NETHER PROVIDENCE — Kira Venturini calmly stepped up to the penalty spot, surveyed her options and launched a perfect shot into the upper 90 past Central Bucks East goalie's Paige Marcinkowski's left arm.
The movement of the twine behind Marcinkowski was all Strath Haven needed to see that it had taken a lead after one penalty kick apiece in the teams' District One Class AAA quarterfinal Saturday night.
Three C.B. East shots and three Panthers offerings later, though, Strath Haven's fortunes had been completely reversed, and once C.B. East sophomore Emma Loving's shot zipped past Katie Fisher, the Panthers found themselves needing a new way to make it to the state tournament after a 3-1 loss in the penalty kicks. Neither team was able to break through for a goal in regulation or either of the overtime sessions.
"I'm proud of my team,' All-Delco center back Allie Wilson said. "We went out there, we knew what we had to do. We shut them out the whole game and it sucks that it had to come down to PKs. They totally earned it in PKs, but I think out in the field is really an even game.'
Strath Haven (15-2-2) will to regroup to try to win a pair of games in order to snare District One's fifth and final spot in the state tournament. The Panthers will host No. 12 Pennsbury, a 1-0 loser in double overtime to No. 4 Boyertown, Tuesday night at 7 at King Field. Strath Haven beat the Falcons, 3-0, in the penultimate regular season game. C.B. East will take on No. 2 Downingtown East, which blanked Council Rock South, 1-0.
The Panthers have been in big-game situations before, too, so there's little chance that they'll be overwhelmed by the high stakes riding on playback games.
"It's going to help a lot,' said All-Delco midfielder Sophie Murphy, who made her return to the lineup after suffering a broken wrist in the regular-season finale. "For soccer, we're experienced. Girls have been through the lacrosse season and track. We know what to do and we've taken care of it the other years, so there's no reason we're not going to get that fifth seed this year.'
Murphy admitted that playing with an imposing five-pound green cast on her left hand took a little bit of getting used to, but she was one of the Panthers' best players all night. Her play in the midfield helped Strath Haven offset a weak first-half effort with a strong second half and overtime sessions, while Wilson was absolutely everywhere defensively.
Maddie Forbes and Annika Kruse had strong opportunities to be the hero in overtime, but neither one could quite cash in on their opportunities. Loving almost ended it for the Patriots just before penalty kicks began, but her boot sailed well over the crossbar.
"I think it took us at least the entire first half and some of the second half to sort of figure out our game plan,' Strath Haven coach Gino Miraglia said. "We certainly had opportunities, but we just didn't finish on any of them. ... I feel we had the better of play, at least in the second part of the second half and in overtime. Kira and Allie did an amazing job of shutting down their forwards, who have a combined 30 or 40 goals. We did our part. It's just unfortunate to go to PKs for anybody, winning or losing.'
And from now on, losing in either PKs or any other time isn't going to cut it if the Panthers want to keep their season alive.