Chaps lose to Steele Knights

Inside, senior Heather Vanderloo was anything but calm and composed as she walked up to the penalty spot to take Steele’s first sudden death penalty shot. But outside, she didn’t show any of that, took a deep breath and fired the ball into the bottom left corner of the net.

“I was very, very nervous because I had all the weight on my shoulders,” Heather said. “But for a second I forgot it was sudden death and I thought I had everyone else after me. It just felt really good to get the win.”

Westlake had its chance to equalize, but freshman Katie Kearney’s penalty would ricochet off the post and out, and the Chaps would fall at San Marcos High School to the Steele Knights, 5-4 on penalties.

As emotional as the loss was for the Chaps, Steele faced a situation very similar to it just three years ago. With 27 seconds left in their game against Reagan that year in the third round of playoffs, they gave up a goal, and with it, their chances of making a first ever fourth-round appearance for the program.

“They were determined, and there were positive vibes going into the shootout,” Steele head coach Justin Linthicum said. “Somehow, they knew — they knew we were going to win. We’ve practiced PK’s every day for the last five or six practices, but when it comes down to PK’s, it’s a flip of a coin.”

For the first 15 minutes of the game, Westlake controlled the tempo and finally earned their breakthrough via a senior Renny Moore chip.

But Steele would respond with a goal of their own before the end of the half. Freshman Gisselle Kozarski picked up a loose ball inside the box and received a fortunate deflection off a Westlake defender to beat goalkeeper senior Paige Wallace.

Chaps head coach Andy Gaworecki’s halftime talk inspired a rejuvenated Chaps side to start the second half. But Steele’s hard work on the defensive side of the ball payed off, and they were able to keep the score at 1-1.

“[My] girls are used to setting the tone of the game, but Westlake came out and set the tone at the start of both halves,” Linthicum said. “I told them, ‘We’re going to find ourselves in a bind, and we’re going to be defending for our lives, but you’re just going to have to understand that it’s a part of the game. There’s no panic mode, just defend.’”

The Knights were able to create chances of their own towards the end of the second half, but Paige made numerous saves to send the game into overtime.

“Every time they moved the ball forward into my half, I was just thinking, ‘They’re not going to score,’ ‘This isn’t the way this season is going to end,’” she said. “Every time we came together during halftime or before overtime, it was just, ‘Find a way to win.’ Do whatever you need to do to get it into the net.”

While the Chaps had chances, they just weren’t able to catch any breaks. Freshman Maddie Dawson was gifted a point-blank opportunity which she thumped off the goalkeeper, and Westlake had another chance from outside the box which went off the inside of the post but somehow stayed out.

“That’s what the games come down to,” Paige said. “Who can do whatever it takes to get the ball into the net. Obviously some games go into PK’s, but it’s frustrating no matter what.”

Paige would also come inches from saving Steele’s third penalty which would have given Westlake a chance to take the lead in the shootout. She, along with the rest of the team, was understandably upset after the game, but it was especially hard on her as this would be her final game in a Chaps jersey.

“Obviously right now, we’re very upset,” Paige said. “But, I think looking back, we can be proud of what we’ve done. As a senior, it’s hard for me, since this is my last year playing at Westlake, but I know that the team coming ahead, with the younger players moving up, will be a good team. The tradition of Westlake soccer will move on.”

Steele moves on to play Los Fresnos in the Regional Semifinals at 1 p.m. April 7 at the Blossom Athletic Center. Los Fresnos comes off a shutout, 2-0 win over Rivera April 4.