OAK PARK HEIGHTS — Shelby Litchy delivered two goals and the Ponies made the most of their opportunities in the shoot-out on Thursday while earning a 3-2 victory over East Ridge in the Section 4AA quarterfinals at Stillwater Area High School.
Stillwater (11-4-2), which defeated the Raptors 3-0 earlier this season, had its hands full on Thursday. East Ridge (6-9-2) started the season with just one victory in its first 10 games, but carried a six-game unbeaten streak into the section tournament.
“East Ridge is a much improved team from the first time we saw them,” Ponies coach Mike Huber said. “They won five of their last six games and are much better than when we first saw them. At the same time, I don’t think we gave our best effort.”
The third-seeded Ponies will need to play a more consistent game against long-time rival and No. 2 seed Woodbury in Saturday’s section semifinals at 4 p.m. Woodbury defeated Hill-Murray 1-0 on Thursday.
The Raptors had an answer for each of Stillwater’s second-half goals, including the tying goal with just one second remaining in regulation as Payton Goulding got behind the defense and buried a shot past goalkeeper Megan Holthaus — much to the chagrin of the stunned Ponies.
“I’ve never experienced anything like it, especially in such a big game,” Huber said. “I don’t know if I’ve seen (a goal) with that little time. It was very disheartening for our girls, but I give them credit for battling back and taking care of it in the shoot-out.”
The Ponies collected themselves enough to convert each of its first four kicks in the shoot-out — with Allie Boucher, Ali Schilling, Lexi Andres and Leah Nitardy finding the back of the net — while Holthaus made saves on two of three attempts by the Raptors.
“It was a little crazy,” Huber said. “It was exciting for the girls and, in all honesty, hopefully they realized they kind of got lucky tonight, too. Megan made two great saves in the shoot-out.”
Following a scoreless first half, during which Stillwater was outplayed for most of the first 30 minutes or so, Litchy scored five minutes into the second half for a 1-0 lead. The Raptors answered at 27:50 with a goal by Katelyn Bergloff, but Litchy struck again on an assist by Hannah Okerstrom just two minutes later to regain a 2-1 advantage.
It appeared Litchy’s second tally would be enough until East Ridge’s last-second heroics to force overtime.
“Hopefully that gives us just a little bit of a wake-up call,” Huber said. “It was good that we got this out of the way because we’re going to have to play mistake-free if we’re going to beat Woodbury.”
East Ridge 0 2 0 0 — 2
Stillwater 0 2 0 0 — 2
St — 4:48 — Shelby Litchy (unassisted)
ER — 27:50 — Katelyn Bergloff (NA)
St — 29:38 — Litchy (Hannah Okerstrom)
ER — 39:59 — Payton Goulding (Emily Heslin)
Shots on goal — ER: 11; St: 8.
Corner kicks — ER: 2; St: 3.
Fouls — ER: 11; St: 9.
Goalie saves — ER: Kimberly Clinch 6; St: Megan Holthaus 9.
White Bear Lake 6, Tartan 0
Mahtomedi 2, Cretin-Derham Hall 0
Stillwater 2, East Ridge 2 (Stillwater wins shoot-out 4-1)
Woodbury 1, Hill-Murray 0
#4 Mahtomedi at #1 White Bear Lake
#3 Stillwater at #2 Woodbury
Finals — Tuesday, Oct. 16