Bulldog girls score late, kick way to state
     2012-05-11      By Terry Gaston   
Gering junior Jennifer Barge (No. 20) works the ball around a Holdrege defender during the teams' District B-6 championship game Thursday at the Dr. Allan C. Landers Memorial Soccer Complex in Scottsbluff. Barge scored the game-tying goal in the 71st minute of the Bulldogs' 2-1 victory. 
SCOTTSBLUFF — Just 10 minutes before, the Gering girls’ soccer team was trying to find a way — any way, any opening — that might get the Bulldogs back into their District B-6 championship game Thursday against Holdrege.

Gering had outplayed the Dusters, who had a one-goal lead since they scored on a penalty kick late in the first half, but the scoreboard did not reflect the Bulldogs’ effort.

Until the tide finally turned.

With a solid southeast wind at their backs, the Bulldogs finally found the back of the Holdrege net when junior Jennifer Barge wound up from about 25 yards out and blew the equalizing goal past Dusters senior goalkeeper Haley Schroeder in the 71st minute.

Then with both teams scrambling to avoid overtime, Gering junior Josie Thompson found classmate Jackie Hayden open on the right wing. Hayden lured Schroeder out of net just enough to open the goal mouth and hit the back of the net for a 2-1 Bulldog lead in the 78th minute.

Two minutes later, the referee blew his whistle; the Gering Bulldogs were state bound as District B-6 champions for the first time since 2007.

An unseen turn of events to all at the Dr. Allen C. Landers Memorial Soccer Complex except to the Bulldogs themselves, and that was all that mattered.

And for one Gering player who could have for a long time been deemed the unfortunate victim in a freak handball situation, junior Brooke Satur, a disastrous one-goal loss was nullified thanks to the Bulldogs’ 80-minute ambition of playing together, win or lose.
“We believe in our goals that we know how to do it, when to do it,” said third-year Gering coach Lisa Sweeney, who is taking a Bulldog team to state for the first time as head coach.”

The handball call on Satur set up a penalty kick for Holdrege, whose kick by senior Whitney Wagner flew past the outstretched fingertips of Gering junior goalkeeper Maggie Martin for a 1-0 Duster lead that stood until the soon-after halftime break.

The one-goal deficit had the Bulldogs deflated in the opening minutes of the second half, but then they regained their poise and “It took us a few minutes to get it back,” Sweeney said. “We did more of a job of not giving up.”

Barge captured a loose ball and wasted little time in setting up her distant shot that equalized the score at 1-all.
And then with time winding down, Hayden took the pass from Thompson — who had two goals in the Bulldogs’ 3-1 semifinal over Lexington two days earlier.

“Jackie Hayden is naturally fast with more power and I am glad she found the back of the net,“ Sweeney said. “There was nothing like the second goal. Give credit to them, it’s a great reward for them.”
The fortune was a reversal of the past two years, when Holdrege emerged as the district champion. “The last two years we have lost in the last two minutes and this year we won in the last two minutes,” Sweeney said.

“These girls travel on their own over the summer, then we did five weeks of conditioning before the season started,” Sweeney said. “Now we continue from here.”

No matter what happens Wednesday night, when the Bulldogs take the turf of Creighton University’s Michael G. Morrison S.J. Stadium in Omaha, against the heavily favored Omaha Skutt Catholic (15-1).
The Skyhawks are three-time defending state champions, while Gering — in its state appearances in 2005 and 2007 — has yet to score a state tournament goal. Then again, it is why the games are played. All 80 minutes. Skutt’s only loss is to Class A No. 4 seed Omaha Westside.

Should the Bulldogs have the good fortune again and topple the mighty SkyHawks, they would play Saturday at 9 a.m. against Wednesday’s first-round winner between No. 4 seeded Elkhorn South (13-4) and No. 5 Lincoln Pius X (11-6). Tuesday’s Class B state championship game is Monday at 5 p.m.

No matter the Bulldogs’ outcome at state, nothing can take away that moment when Gering Activities Director Dave Pauli handed that plaque to the white-and-blue that proclaimed the Bulldogs the District Champions.

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