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Lady Knights drop heartbreaker in shootout
Ripon Christian girls soccer players anxiously watch the action unfold during the game-deciding penalty-kick shootout against Forest Lake Christian Tuesday. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

RIPON — The Ripon Christian girls soccer squad suffered a tough sudden-death shootout loss Tuesday to visiting Forest Lake Christian in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI playoff game.

Tied 1-1 in regulation – the Falcons had a goal in the final minute waved off due to an offside penalty – the two teams went scoreless in both overtime sessions.

In the first shootout, the Knights (17-7-2) had a chance to win it. Janelle Engel, Jillian Koetsier and Kirsten Lown connected their shots, tying the shootout at 3-3.

Makena Wong, Morgan Koch and Aly English kept Forest Lake’s hope alive by connecting on their kicks.

Ashley Roberts, who scored Ripon Christian’s first-half goal thanks to an assist from Rachael Kinser, had her shot attempt gobbled up by Falcon goalie Stephanie Herron.

“That save was huge for us,” said Forest Lake coach Trenton Mol. “It gave Steph plenty of confidence.”

Herron, a junior, had played the position sparingly last year. But, according to Mol, she had shown considerable improvement in recent months.

Roberts, too, was aware of the pressure situation of a shootout.

“It’s tough,” she later said. “All you can do is pray.”

In sudden death, Kynsi Vanderwesthuizen became the unlikely hero, with the Falcons freshman delivering on the go-ahead shot. Herron then secured the win by reeling in Emily Leahy’s shot attempt.

“We’ve been in few shootouts over the years but never with this team,” Mol said. “This is a young team – we started six freshmen, two sophomores, two juniors and a senior.”

No stranger to the playoffs, Forest Lake (12-6-1) of Auburn will move on in the postseason.

Ripon Christian, meanwhile, was playing in the postseason for the first time in over decade, according to coach Travis Haveman.

“Regardless of the outcome, this was still a fun experience,” he said.

Roberts agreed.

“I think it’s safe to say that we were not so good in the past three years,” she said. “For us to finally make the playoffs was awesome.”

The Knights appeared on their way to moving on, leading 1-0 through most a majority of the game. Beth Van Vliet, RC’s goal keeper, made a fast-break save but landed out of position.

Forest Lake followed up with Koch scoring the tying goal.

In the first overtime, RC had two shots at goal. Roberts and Kaylie Colyn had their one-on-one chances stopped by Herron. She also came through with a save in the second overtime session, hauling in Engel’s penalty kick try.

Koch tried a penalty kick for Forest Lake, but her shot attempt sailed high.

Kinser, who received the pass from by Lown, also came up empty on her goal try in the final minutes of the second overtime.