HIGHLAND — A heaping helping of disgruntlement, irritation and maybe even a little frustration was ultimately washed down with a big glass of relief and validation for Highland on Thursday.
The Trojans had about a dozen scoring opportunities in the second half but had nothing to show for it after 80 minutes.
“I wouldn’t say we were getting frustrated but we were getting a little like, ‘We keep shooting but it’s not going in, We have to get it in the goal,’” freshman Hannah Wleklinski said.
It was almost six minutes into the first extra period when Wleklinski was in the right place at the right time. She got her chest on a bouncing ball deep in the box and gently nudged it in the right direction.
“I thought I was going to be able to kick it but it bounced off my chest and went in,” Wleklinski said. “I knew that I had to make a run in, and I was right there when the ball was there.
“It felt amazing.”
It was enough to give Highland a 1-0 win over Andrean in the Class 2A sectional semifinal.
“My kids always say we’re a second-half team,” Highland coach Courtney Condes said. “It took a little while but they finished it in the end so I was happy.”
The Trojans will meet Clark in Saturday’s final. The Pioneers topped city rival Gavit 2-0 in the second game.
Defense dominated the first 40 minutes between Andrean and Highland. Neither team created many serious chances in the first half and both missed some opportunities.
“We were so prepared for them. We thought we were doing everything we need to do to win this match,” Andrean coach Jeff Clapman said. “I thought we were getting there and unfortunately we were just a few minutes short.”
The Trojans (11-6) beat Andrean 4-0 during the regular season, but that was over a month ago.
The 59ers (8-7-2) were the Class A state champion a year ago. Andrean lost much of that team to graduation and was bumped up to 2A after the state realigned schools before this season.
“You get to this level and you’ve got to limit your mistakes. You can bend a little but you can’t break because the minute you break, something’s going to happen,” Clapman said. “Our seniors worked really hard to make sure our young team knew what these games mean. I’m impressed with our effort. I really am.”
Highland had a terrific chance in the 59th minute when Jen Sheehan beat a couple defenders and put a cross into the other side of the box. Wleklinski was there but her shot went into the side of the net.
The Trojans would continue to pressure the Andrean goal for most of the second half but never found nylon.
“You can’t work that hard, with how many close shots or post hits, you can’t work that hard and not want that outcome,” Condes said. “The kids, from the start, we told them ‘You need to be focused, you need to be ready and you need to want the ball, want the win more than they do.”
Lesly Silva opened the scoring for Clark on Stephanie Mendoza-Garmendia’s corner kick in the 25th minute. The Pioneers controlled most of the possession but Gavit did have a few scoring chances.
Sonia Barron added a goal in the the 73rd minute to nail it down.