CLIFTON PARK — Maddie Franklin’s only save of the day couldn’t have come at a bigger moment for the Shenendehowa girls’ soccer team.
For the first 79 minutes and 38 seconds of Saturday’s match, Franklin faced exactly one shot on goal, which Averill Park’s Gabriele Geise put into the back of the net early in the second half. But, after Shenendehowa answered with two goals to take the lead, all eyes turned to Franklin in the game’s final minute.
Averill Park’s Meredith Gaylord drew a foul in the box that earned the Warriors a penalty kick and a last chance to force a draw. Elizabeth Owens stepped up to take the shot, and Franklin got herself locked in.
“I was trying to figure out where [Owens] was looking,” Franklin said. “I just knew I wasn’t about to let them tie the game.”
Franklin guessed correctly, diving to her right and deflecting the shot wide. One cleared corner kick later, and Shenendehowa escaped the breathless final seconds with a 2-1 victory.
The Suburban Council is not playing overtime in soccer this season.
“It’s huge. It’s huge,” Shenendehowa coach Holli Nirsberger said. “I couldn’t be more proud of her in that situation.”
“We were so lucky that she was able to save it,” Shenendehowa defender Sophia DeMura said. “We all cheered for her. It was crazy.”
Franklin’s game-clinching save was the final twist in a wild final 40 minutes.
Shenendehowa (5-0-1) dominated possession in the first half, but was unable to find a way to break down the Averill Park defense to produce a goal.
When the second half began, it was Averill Park (2-3-2) that came out with a surge, pressing hard in the opening minutes and taking the lead when Madeline Gile slipped a pass to a surging Geise, who danced past Franklin to bury her shot and take the lead in the 43rd minute.
The goal prompted a sense of urgency for Shenendehowa, as Nirsberger implored her team to play a more direct style with the wind at their backs.
“That goal,” Nirsberger said, “I guess was what it took to turn them around a little bit. I was proud of them after we went down a goal and started playing a little harder.”
That added pressure quickly paid dividends. A scramble off a corner kick resulted in the tying goal from Olivia Behan in the 53rd minute, and a little more than a minute later Gloria Kokkinedes struck for the go-ahead score with a blast from the top of the 18-yard box following a free kick.
“It was just a matter of ripping it,” Kokkinedes said. “I just wanted to score.”
Shenendehowa continued to pile on the pressure and nearly added a third goal seconds later, with Michelina Lombardi producing a stellar save to deny Maia LaVigne on a breakaway.
The field continued to be tilted in Shenendehowa’s favor until the closing moments, when Averill Park’s last-ditch push earned the penalty kick — a call the Shenendehowa sideline protested profusely — and Franklin stepped up to save the day.
“From my angle,” Averill Park coach Nate Luskin said, “it looked like a great save. We got the look, and [Franklin] made a great save.”
If she was only going to make one save, Franklin figured she might as well make it count.
“We weren’t about to end in a tie,” she said. “I wanted to win.”
Halftime: Tied 0-0. Averill Park scoring: G. Geise 1-0, Gile 0-1. Shenendehowa scoring: Kokkinedes 1-0, O. Behan 1-0, Greene 0-1. Goalies: Averill Park, Lombardi 12 saves. Shenendehowa, Franklin 1 save.