Notre Dame's Sydney Unverferth, left, and Clay's Rylee Clark struggle for possession of the ball during a Three Rivers Athletic Conference soccer match Wednesday. THE BLADE/KURT STEISS
A tie was as good as win for the Clay girls soccer team on a gloomy and drizzly Wednesday night, as its 2-2 outcome at Notre Dame secured at least a share of the Three Rivers Athletic Conference championship.
Clay’s Eagles (8-5-3 overall, 6-0-1 TRAC) got both of their goals on penalty kicks from diminutive 5-foot-1 senior midfielder Reagan Clark – one in each half – in capturing a second conference title in four years.
“It’s very tough to win a championship in this league, and we did that with a tie,” Clay coach Don Hess said. “It wasn’t looking pretty. They outplayed us early, and I think we responded at halftime and played a little better.
“But they kept it in our end a long time. That’s soccer. We were able to keep them out of the net and got the tying goal, and ‘league champs’ sounds pretty good.”
IN PICTURES: Clay 2, Notre Dame 2
VIDEO: TRAC Soccer
Notre Dame’s Eagles (9-4-2, 5-0-1), who reached the Division I state semifinals last year, will now need to win on the road against rival St. Ursula on Saturday to claim their share of the 2017 TRAC championship. A tie or a loss versus the Arrows (9-4-2, 5-1-0) would give Clay an outright title.
“First of all, congratulations to Clay,” Notre Dame coach Chip Smith. “They’ve had a great year in the league and I think really surprised quite a few teams this year.
“We knew going in that the worst that could happen would be to lose. We needed a tie to stay in it.”
Clark’s first goal came after a foul was called in the penalty area in front of the goal just 1:12 into the game. Her right-footed kick beat ND’s senior goalkeeper Abby Snyder in the upper left corner of the goal.
“Practice makes perfect,” Clark said of cashing in on her PK chances. “You can practice as many times as you want in no-pressure situations. But, there’s nothing like being put in that situation when you’re whole team is relying on you. You’ve just got to breathe, say a little prayer, and hope it goes in.”
Notre Dame’s standout junior forward Ashley Barron then helped her Eagles tie the game then take the lead before halftime.
Barron arched a left-footed shot from 35 yards out along the left side over the top of Clay sophomore goalkeeper Kennedy Slovak and into the goal with 32:50 left in the first half. It was Barron’s team-best 16th goal of the season.
Not long afterward, ND and Barron got their own opportunity on a penalty kick when Clay was whistled for a foul in the penalty area.
But Novak rose to the occasion, diving to her right to block Barron’s low shot with 27:54 left in the half.
Notre Dame shook off that missed chance with 10:16 remaining in the half when Barron’s assisted on sophomore midfielder Aishlin Armstrong’s goal from point-blank range in front of the goal.
But, after been outplayed for much of the first half, Clay used a free kick into the the goal area to set up a prime chance, that was disrupted by another ND foul that created a second PK chance for Clark.
Once again, she beat Snyder in the upper left portion of the goal, and Clay’s Eagles were back to even with 28:33 left in the game.
Although Notre Dame’s Eagles would dominate possession and set up several legitimate scoring opportunities over what remained in the game, Clay escaped with the tie and title share.
“Of course, we would’ve liked to win” Smith said. “We felt like we created enough chances in this game to win, but Clay is a tough team. They fight and they’re physical, and they’re well-coached.
“Some things just didn’t go our way today, but the scoreboard doesn’t lie. We put ourselves in great spots, and we were just slightly off. And, we didn’t finish.”
Northern Lakes League
Perrysburg and Anthony Wayne tied for the Northern Lakes League title by virtue of wins on Wednesday night.
The Yellow Jackets (10-2-3 overall) finished 6-0-1 in league play with a 7-1 win over Bowling Green. The Generals (13-2-1) also finished with a 6-0-1 mark in NLL play with a 5-1 victory over Springfield.
The teams battled to a 0-0 against each other on Sept. 27. It is the seventh straight NLL title for Perrysburg.