By Tris Wykes
CLAREMONT – Sally Rainey had never taken a penalty kick in a game before Thursday night, but that bothered the Lebanon High star not at all. The senior goalkeeper buried her team’s final attempt, then kicked out one by Stevens’ Stella LaVertue, lifting the visiting Raiders into the NHIAA Division II quarterfinals.
Following 100 scoreless minutes in pouring rain on Monadnock Park’s quagmire of a field, the teams each sent five shooters to the penalty stripe. Lebanon’s Rachel Harrington and Stevens’ Hannah Miller converted during the first three rounds.
The Raiders’ Delaney DeShane and the Cardinals’ Angelina LaClair then had shots denied, moving Rainey into an offensive role against Stevens counterpart Hailey Knight.
“I love shootouts, because there’s absolutely no pressure on me to make any saves,” Rainey said, noting that the shooter’s chances of success are much higher in such a situation. “Tonight was different, because I’ve never shot a PK, but we’ve been practicing them.”
Rainey fired her shot low and inside the left post before turning and shouting in celebration at her teammates, gathered nearby. The senior then retook her position on the goal line and used her left foot to deflect LaVertue’s shot and win the game.
So which feat was more difficult?
“Making the shot,” the keeper said. “I know that statistically it’s not, but it’s something I was a little uncomfortable with.”
Lebanon (5-1-1) played most of the night in Stevens’ end, although the Cardinals (5-7) threatened on a through ball with 30 seconds remaining in overtime. Rainey, however, showed why she’s the region’s preeminent backstop, sprinting and then sliding to grab the ball before upending a charging foe.
“I heard (defender Kiera Hines) yell for me and I knew I had to come out,” Rainey said. “It was a little stressful.”
Play was slow and deliberate throughout, getting more so as the match progressed. Soggy holes in the turf with a depth of 3-4 inches pockmarked the surface and competitors’ steps produced loud squelching. It was like running in sand, only worse.
“The footing was definitely sloppy,” said Lebanon coach Breck Taber, whose team visits Bow at 2 p.m. on Sunday. “We were getting shots but they didn’t have any power behind them, so we weren’t making the goalie make any difficult saves. It was frustrating to watch.”
Taber had his players practice penalty shots repeatedly in recent days and noted that Rainey always fired hers at the upper, right corner. However, the coach said, Knight was cheating to that side as Rainey approached her shot.
“We knew she’d be in our top five shooters, and she was either going to be first or fifth,” Taber said. “She was freaking out that she had to go the opposite way of what she’d practiced, but she made it.”
Notes: Lebanon twice beat Stevens by 3-0 scores during the regular season… Rainey, shivering nonstop after the game, said she’d brought pajamas to change into for the bus ride home… Almost all players wore gloves… Monadnock Park’s playing surface is beautifully maintained overall but simply couldn’t absorb a full day’s rain. “There were puddles when we got here at 5,” Taber said after the contest. “Now it looks like there was a horse race out here.”… Sunday’s game could be another with rough footing. Bow’s natural-grass field is scheduled to host a soccer match and a football game on Saturday.
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