By Dan Plouffe
OSU 0 – Nepean 0 (OSU wins 8-7 in penalty kicks)
Twenty-four shooters. One after another they came, trying to give their side victory in the East Region under-15 girls’ Cup final.
It seemed almost like the Ottawa South United Power and Nepean Hotspurs were destined for eternal deadlock as the deciding penalty kicks session entered its 12th round on the heels of a scoreless regulation and extra time.
But then up stepped Tori MacFarlane – the OSU player who’d earlier missed a chance to avoid all the nonsense when she was stopped by Nepean goalkeeper Karina Katsepontes on a regulation-time penalty kick.
With hands on hips as if to express her impatience with the duration of the contest, MacFarlane then dropped her arms, took two steps to the ball, and booted home the decisive ball with a low, hard drive to give her squad the 8-7 win in penalties.
“It was so nerve-wracking,” MacFarlane recounts, explaining that watching the tense moments for all the marbles was the worst part. “I was close to crying. It was really scary.”
The Power’s leading scorer during her squad’s 7-6-1 league season, MacFarlane didn’t get on the scoresheet during Cup play, but teammate Caitlin MacNamara’s fifth save of the shootout provided her with the chance to play the hero’s role in the end.
“All I was thinking was, ‘Please let me get this in!’” recalls MacFarlane, who also converted her first chance as the third shooter in the penalty kick round. “I was embarrassed the first time I missed. I had to believe in myself. And my teammates were really supportive. I’m so glad we won. It was really exciting.”
Not to be forgotten, however, were the efforts of Katsepontes, who was unbeatable in a regulation session where OSU enjoyed the edge in play. Nepean’s keeper made four saves in penalty kicks.
“I can’t say enough about her,” notes Hotspurs coach Francis Onyalo. “She’s a U14 player, so for her to play at this level was a very good experience. To be under pressure and make those kinds of amazing saves, it’s unbelievable.”
The Cup silver medal was the reward for a solid year of work put in by Onyalo’s group, who played in Level 4 last year. The Hotspurs managed to maintain their spot in the Level 3 regional league for next year with a 3-8-3 regular season, and then they saved their best for Cup play, knocking off West Ottawa 3-1, Gloucester 2-1, and St. Lawrence 2-1 to reach the final.
OSU coach Mike Armstrong was also very proud of his team’s efforts, especially in the final where the number of hard challenges and collisions rose quite high in the last few minutes of play. But he also couldn’t get past the baffling length of the shootout.
“It was a little stressful,” smiles Armstrong, whose squad also survived penalty kicks in the Cup quarter-final round against Glengarry. “I had a lot of confidence in the girls, but 12 shots was definitely a lot.”
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