St. Ursula's Kiley Armstrong kicks the winning goal in a sudden-death shootout against Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit goalkeeper Caitlin Jakubek in Wednesday night's Division II state semifinal.
TIFFIN -- St. Ursula did what many thought was impossible.
The Arrows first stayed in a scoreless tie with Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit, the nation's second-ranked girls soccer team, through 80 minutes of regulation play, plus two 15-minute overtime periods.
Then underdog St. Ursula beat the Warriors (19-1-2) in the second round of penalty kicks to take a 1-0 upset victory in the Division II state semifinal played at Tiffin Columbian's Frost-Kalnow Stadium on Wednesday.
"It's a great opportunity for these kids," Arrows coach Chris Black said. "That's a fantastic team and we're fortunate to win it."
PHOTO GALLERY: SUA vs. Walsh Jesuit
Knotted 3-3 after the first round of five penalty kicks for each team, Arrows senior midfielder Kiley Armstrong scored as the second shooter in the second round, and Walsh's Sandra Yu sailed her try over the crossbar to give St. Ursula (15-6-1) the improbable sudden-death win.
The other hero for the Arrows was senior goalkeeper Nicole Vahalik, who made 14 saves in regulation plus the overtimes, then made two saves during the penalty-kick phase.
"I can't even believe it," Armstrong said. "It doesn't seem real right now.
"We had to work so hard defensively just to keep them out of our goal, but we did it, and that's all I can say.
"Nicole Vahalik's performance was awesome. She did exactly what she needed to do. Nobody thought we could do this and we wanted to prove them all wrong."
St. Ursula goalkeeper Nicole Vahalik makes one of her 14 saves in regulation overtime during 2nd half against Walsh Jesuit at Frost-Kalnow Stadium in Tiffin, Ohio. s5 s5vahalik bw 3.27" x 2.5"
Walsh Jesuit is a five-time state champion and won the Division I title last season. The Warriors were making their 11th trip to the state semifinals in the past 13 years. The Arrows' only prior state semifinal trip came in 2004, when they were beaten by eventual champion Walsh Jesuit.
Unranked St. Ursula, which shook off a string of six losses in its final eight regular-season matches to launch its best tournament run in school history, will now face Columbus St. Francis DeSales (16-4-2) for the D-II state champion Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Crew Stadium in Columbus.
In surviving the semifinals, the Arrows were outshot 28-4 over the 110 minutes of play before the penalty kicks, and were topped 14-3 in shots on goal by the Warriors, who dominated the offensive action for more than 80 percent of the game.
But Walsh coach Dino McIntyre's side could never find the net behind Vahalik, despite several prime scoring chances throughout.
In the first round of alternating penalty kicks, Grace Kenney, Kelly Farell, and Kyla Sofo each scored for the Arrows, and Christen Westphal, Maddy Anzelc, and Maddy John scored for Walsh Jesuit to force the sudden-death penalty-kick phase.
After Warriors goalkeeper Caitlin Jakubek stopped St. Ursula's Sam Neff, the first shooter in the second round, Warrior Halle Stelbasky sailed her try over the crossbar.
Armstrong then squeezed her game-deciding shot past Jakubek to the keeper's right side.
"I was trying to stay calm and put it to the corner of the net," Armstrong said. "I knew [Jakubek] couldn't dive to her right, so I was thinking right all day."
In the opening half, St. Ursula made its decidedly defensive strategy evident from the outset.
Whenever necessary, the Arrows simply dumped the ball out of bounds to avoid potential scoring threats, and resisted any temptation to counter Walsh Jesuit's dangerous attack.
"We'll take the wins anyway we can get them," Black said. "Walsh is unbelievable and we knew we couldn't play them straight up. We didn't want to bunker up [completely]."
The Warriors' best scoring opportunity came with just 10 seconds left in the half, when midfielder Alyson Smigel sent a hard left-footed kick on goal from 20 yards out, forcing Vahalik to dive to her right to secure the save and keep the game scoreless.
"We've been working hard in practice and we felt anything could happen in the tournament," Vahalik said.
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com 419-724-6461, or on Twitter @JungaBlade