Emily Scharnitsky wore a cold stare to mask the nerves that were flipping around in her stomach.
“It was really stressful,” Bishop England’s sophomore goalkeeper said. “It’s sort of like the pressure is all on you. Everyone’s watching. You don’t want to let your team down.”
Scharnitsky had gone 110 minutes without allowing a goal. But the next five penalty shots would be the toughest of all. She thought of her family and friends in the stands as she trotted onto the field alone. She thought of her teammates who lined the sideline in angst. She thought of the last-minute words of encouragement her coach offered. Then standing in front of the net by herself, she thought of nothing.
“I just cleared my head and went for it,” she said. “You just have to pull it out for your team. That’s all that matters.”
No. 1 Bishop England outlasted No. 2 Academic Magnet in a penalty kick shootout to decide the Class AAA girls soccer Lower State championship Monday at Jack Cantey Stadium on Daniel Island.
The defending state champion Bishops will face undefeated Powdersville in the AAA title game Saturday in Irmo.
“We know what kind of opponent Academic Magnet is,” Bishop England coach Dave Snyder said of the Raptors, who won the AA state title last season before jumping into AAA this season. “When the two of us get together with everything on the line, it brings the best out of both teams. It was fitting it came to this.”
Snyder and the Bishops knew the scenario especially well, having defeated the Raptors in penalty kicks eight weeks ago. Same teams, same field, same net, just much higher stakes. So when four overtime periods passed without a score, Snyder pulled out the scorebook from that game in March and began to analyze the Raptors’ tendencies — which player, to which side, off which foot. He attempted to arm Scharnitsky with some measure of an advantage. Then he stopped himself.
“Just save me one,” he put simply. “Just go save one and we’ll take care of the rest.”
Raptors all-state senior Riane Coman stepped to the line — she volunteered to kick first — and drilled a shot into the left side of the net. Lauren Berrigan followed for the Bishops with a strike to the opposite side.
Scharnitsky nearly stopped Kaylin Morris’ shot against the post, but it squeezed through for the Raptors’ second score. Both sides of the stands gasped, one in relief and one in regret. Isabella DeMarco, who nearly found the net with several attempts in regulation, put away the equalizer with ease for the Bishops.
“Penalty kicks don’t intimidate us,” Snyder said. “We practice them every day. They know the sequence, who’s going to kick in what order. It’s just a matter of execution at that point.”
Scharnitsky did get to Caley Jacobs’ shot with both hands in the third round to open the door for Kayla Vroman, who buried the go-ahead score for the Bishops.
“I just had a feeling and guessed right,” Scharnitsky said. “That was such a relief. I knew were going to win after that.”
Riley Haas pounded a shot into the right side of the net for the Raptors in the fourth round of kicks and Kelly Drummond slipped in a low rolling shot for the Bishops to force a decisive fifth round.
Scharnitsky bobbed to either side trying to guess where Raptors freshman India Weimann was aiming. Weimann caught the ball too low, thought, and sailed a shot high over the net. The Bishops sideline stormed the field in celebration. Scharnitsky's face finally curled into a wide grin.
“Very appropriate that it was a battle until the very end,” Academic Magnet coach Alister DeLong said. “We felt like we were the top two teams in the state. They’re a championship quality team. It’s fitting to end here like this.”
Snyder said the Bishops will celebrate, but only momentarily. He knows a worthy challenger awaits on Saturday. Powdersville defeated Woodruff 4-2 in the Upper State title game. The Patriots (18-0) entered the postseason ranked ninth in Class AAA, a position Snyder says doesn’t matter at this point when only two teams remain.
“Trust me, we will be focused,” Synder assured. “They certainly have our attention.”