The excitement was bursting at the seams before the final kick clanged off the side of goalpost and the tears began to fall.
After 110 minutes of soccer and year of highs for the top-seeded Liberty girls soccer team, the Patriots lost 4-3 in penalty kicks to No. 2 Clovis-Buchanan in the Central Section Division I championships at Liberty on Tuesday.
As the Patriots players huddled up after Cynthia Flores’ kick hit just off the left goalpost, there wasn’t a dry eye in the bunch.
“I’m probably going to be more emotional than any of them after this night is over,” Liberty head coach Brandon "Boog" Hearron said. “It hurts to see my seniors go out like this. It’s disappointing to watch them hurt so much. But that’s why you play sports.”
It’s the ninth section title for Buchanan (18-4-4) since 2007 and first for the Bears since 2014-15.
“Winnings in PKs is an exciting way to win it,” Buchanan coach Tim Carroll said. “But it’s a horrible way to have you season finish.”
Liberty (20-2-1) and Buchanan tied 1-1 in a regulation-only non-league match that was played at Liberty back in December.
Both team won their respective league title and cruised through the opening rounds of the playoffs only to have a week off since the semifinals because Liberty could not host last Friday because of a track meet in the stadium and Buchanan wasn’t able to play the game on Saturday night.
So, come Tuesday, both teams played for the first 30 minutes evenly in a stalemate before Riley Slayton’s assist set up a goal by San Jose State-bound senior Bryanna Bartlett for the 1-0 lead.
Liberty held on to the lead for the next 38 minutes of action before Giselle Uribe took a deflection as a free kick for the Bears hit the top cross bar and Uribe was there to kick it in from inside the box.
“That was crazy,” Carroll said. “I kept telling her all year long she would have the shot of the year for us, and she did.”
Neither team scored in overtime to set up penalty kicks.
“We left some shots out there in regulation,” Hearron said. “There was no one mistake for us tonight. We just had some missed opportunities. We had our chances. That’s the game and when you get to PKs, it’s a total toss up.”
Caitlin Goetjen scored the first penalty kick for Liberty before Buchanan was able to shoot the first shot twice after Liberty goalkeeper Megan Lynch was called for movement on the initial shot.
Buchanan scored on all four penalty kick attempts before Flores’ shot just missed wide-left.
“This ending just shows you how both team fought all season to get to this point,” Bartlett said. “I don’t think we didn’t finish our season right. We fought to the last minute.”