NEW FRANKLIN TWP.: Senior Kaylee Ferguson was able to recite chapter and verse of Manchester’s recent girls soccer playoff history.
The Panthers had lost several heartbreakers in sectional tournament play, until Thursday night.
Ferguson’s game-winning goal, a laser beam with 1:28 left, lifted top-seeded Manchester to a thrilling 4-3 win over visiting Northwestern in a Division III sectional final. The Panthers will host Norwayne in a district semifinal at 7 p.m. Monday.
“We just broke the curse,” Ferguson said. “We wanted this game so much. We’ve lost in overtime the last three years [in tournament play]. So, it feels amazing.”
The teams picked up right where they left off in the regular season when Manchester (13-3-1) won 3-2 at home. It was a back-and-forth game on a muddy track between two evenly matched opponents.
“Our girls, all the way around, played outstanding soccer tonight,” first-year Manchester coach Ed Kissner said.
Ferguson’s tally snapped a 3-3 tie and came following a throw-in with Manchester in its attacking third of the field.
Freshman Kelly Mirman dropped off the pass and Ferguson ran onto to ball, blasting it home from 20 yards out, inside the back post.
“What a goal!” Kissner said. “What an outstanding goal.”
It ended a 29-minute dry spell after the teams had scored six goals in the first 50 minutes.
“You have to tip your hat to Kaylee, that was a whale of a goal,” seventh-year Northwestern coach Bryan Schaaf said.
Ferguson had two goals and sophomore midfielder Aubrey Podnar had two goals for the Panthers, who never trailed in the match, taking leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 before the Huskies scored the equalizer each time.
“Give Northwestern a lot of credit,” Kissner said. “We knew they were going to be tough, and they gave us everything they had. We knew they had a lot of speed on the outside.”
Northwestern (11-4-3) pulled even at 3-3 with 30:19 to go on striker Carley Kandel’s third goal.
But the goal came at a price. Kandel was injured on the play and did not return.
“Having Carley go down, and losing her for the rest of the night to a head injury, that hurt our team,” Schaaf said. “But without Carley, we were still able to execute largely what we wanted to do.”
Kandel, a freshman, scored a school-record 28 goals this season.
Ferguson and Mirman collaborated on the first goal of the match at 35:25. Kandel answered on an excellent service from junior Johna Gordon at 29:21 of the first half.
Podnar converted a nifty cross from senior Karley Dougherty to put Manchester back on top 2-1 at halftime.
Kandel outran Manchester goalkeeper Monica Tannhof to a 50-50 ball in the first minute of the second half and scored to make it 2-2.
With 33:31 left, following a corner kick and a shot off the post, Podnar punched home the rebound and the Panthers led 3-2.
“They always kept coming back on us,” Kissner said. “You never felt comfortable.”
That is until the Panthers earned a berth in the district tournament.
Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps.