Corner Brook Under-18s’ Danielle Carey, front, and Island Orthotics Curling Rangers’ Sarah Hillman fight for the ball during ladies soccer league playoff action at the Wellington Street Sports Complex on Monday. — Star photo by Geraldine Brophy
Monday night at Wellington Street Sports Complex was Emma Mugford’s first shootout experience as a goalkeeper.
After her stellar performance, it likely won’t be her last.
Mugford made two saves in the extra-time penalty kicks, with a third shooter hitting the crossbar, as the Under-18s defeated the Island Orthotics Curling Rangers 1-1 (3-0) to clinch a berth in the Corner Brook Women’s Soccer League championship game.
“I was nervous, but it’s all about winning ... you want to feel that win with your team,” she said moments after the victory. “I was excited, but nervous, at the same time.”
Liz Rowe provided the only regulation goal for the victors.
Katie Arnott had the lone Rangers’ marker.
Ashley Preston suffered the defeat at the other end of the field.
Mugford, who typically plays midfield, found herself between the pipes for the crucial contest because the usual starter, Ashley Bromley, was unable to make the game.
Mugford and Jade Regular took turns playing goal throughout the season when Bromley was unavailable. Regular was the league’s leading scorer in the regular season with 22 goals, so the decision was made to keep her on the field and put Mugford in net.
It turned out to be a wise one, as she proved to have a knack for the penalty kick portion in particular.
“I had no idea,” she said with a laugh.
Rowe’s goal in the sixth minute opened the scoring, but the Rangers managed to battle back to knot it on Arnott’s goal just before the end of the first half in the 45th.
The tie between the first-seeded Under-18s and second-seeded Rangers remained through the second half and two five-minute overtime periods played under golden goal rules, with the first score ending the contest.
“We’re very even teams,” Mugford said.
Arnott had the opening kick in the shootout for the Rangers, clanging it off the crossbar. Then Chaisson converted for the Under-18s to put the pressure squarely on the Curling contingent — and, to an extent, Mugford.
Hannah Connolly, the league’s second-leading scorer, shot next and was denied point-blank by the Under-18s keeper. Next up was Genna Noseworthy, who beat Preston to put her side up by two in the tiebreaker.
Jill Lahey was next up for the Rangers, but her shot was swatted aside by a diving Mugford. Felicia Park then ended the game with the third goal for the Under-18s.
“I think we played great and we kept our cool,” said Mugford. “Winning was great because we played good enough to win.
“We’re in the championship game now,” she added. “That’s got to be worth something.”
The Rangers, however, are down but not out.
They will play Clancy’s FC on Wednesday night, with the winner of that game earning the other spot in the final on August 27.
“It’s an extra game of soccer for the summer,” said Rangers’ Sam Meaney. “It’s all right, nothing wrong with a challenge.
“We’ll just take it as it comes, really.”
Meaney joked that the “stupid penalty shots” burn the Rangers every time, but said it was an excellent game from both clubs right to the bitter end.
“I love playing them,” she said. “It’s great soccer and there’s no chirping.”
Of course, Mugford’s performance was on the minds of the losing side.
“She was phenomenal the whole game,” Meaney said. “She made a couple of clutch saves that even made me clap for her.
“Then in the shootout she did awesome.”
Meaney knows the only possible redemption for the Rangers is to win on Wednesday and live to face the Under-18s again with everything on the line.
“They’re a good team ... they capitalize on their opportunities and they’re fast,” she said. “I can’t wait to play them again ... hopefully we get to.”
Mugford was making no predictions on whether that’s the last time she and her teammates see the Rangers this season.
“I have no idea,” she said. “We’ll have to see what happens.”