For 93 minutes, Clinton and Sacred Heart played scoreless soccer in the Class 1, District 9 championship game Thursday at Clover Dell Park.
In the 94th minute, Clinton broke through with a goal by Sydney Hager at the 1-0 win.
For Clinton, it was the first district championship in program history and along with St. Pius X’s win Thursday, the second district championship by a West Central Conference girls soccer team this season. For the Gremlins, it was the second consecutive overtime loss in the district championship game following last season’s 2-1 double overtime loss at St Paul Lutheran.
“The legs left us at the end,” said Gremlins coach Travis Cooper. “Too much standing. We weren’t that deep this year. We were 16 players deep, they were 25 players deep. I’m proud of each and every one of the girls. They played a great game. We just came up a little short in the end.”
Isabelle Wilhelm turned away 16 shots including several diving and leaping saves. In the 70th minute after denying a header off a free kick, she dove in to stop Tori Kraft off the ensuing corner kick. A few minutes later she made a leaping save, then another after a free kick. In the overtime, Dani Penfield found Kraft with a through-ball and Wilhelm again made a diving stop.
“I couldn’t be happier with her performance,” Cooper said. “We always ask two or three big saves out of out keeper and Izzy came up big four or five times.”
The Cardinals also challenged Sacred Heart with several long free kicks, including several which could have been goals if Clinton players had gotten to the ball in the box before Wilhelm did.
“The last half of the season our free kicks have been pretty decent,” said Clinton coach Dee Krause. “We’ve been able to put them on target or send someone back-post. I think we were on (Thursday) which definitely helped us. If we would have gotten one earlier it would have been great, but we’ll take it.”
The Gremlins have been without senior forward Morgan Bogue, in uniform on Thursday but on the bench, still recovering from a leg injury. Without the focal point of much of their scoring, the Gremlins were shutout in the final two games of the regular season and scored once in a win over St. Paul in the district semifinal.
Thursday the Gremlins were still able to generate chances early on and keep possession in the Clinton end, but could not capitalize. Laura Wadley had a pair of chances early on but was denied by Clinton keeper Kylie King. In the 14th minute Honor Kehde crossed a pass for Alexus Krumroy but the Cardinals defense cleared the ball away before Krumroy could get a shot off.
“Once we lost Morgan, we struggled to score,” Cooper said. “We had several good opportunities. We just couldn’t convert.”
After Sacred Heart controlled possession for much of the first 20 minutes, Clinton controlled the ball and kept things in the Gremlins’ end for long stretches the rest of the way.
“We made sure to hang our forwards really high and keep the pressure on their defense,” Krause said. “Make sure they were supported. We had a couple times we started to get into bad habits of widening out.”
The Gremlins did get a pair of chances on free kicks late in the first half, but King made a diving stop to deny Kehde in the 34th minute and the 36th minute chance from Gabby Holland glanced off the post.