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Brown's heroics lift Prospect past Belmont in OT

Girls earn trip to semifinals with thrilling overtime victory

PROSPECT MOUNTAIN’S Sahara Brown takes the ball away from Belmont’s Kayli Ennis during quarterfinal action Saturday in Alton. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
October 31, 2011
ALTON – In a wild game that was widely expected due to past results, Sahara Brown calmed everything down when it mattered most on Saturday.

The senior midfielder dribbled past a pair of defenders and drilled a shot into the corner of the net from 25 yards out with 3:26 left in the first overtime to lead Prospect Mountain over visiting Belmont, 4-3, in a Division III girls' soccer quarterfinal in freezing conditions.

"Right after I got past the last defender, I knew that if I took a shot it might go in," said Brown, who had plenty of space to get a shot off. "Coach has been telling me to shoot outside the 18 the whole season so I finally took a shot."

The momentum shifts on the afternoon were extreme, though that was nothing new for the two teams. When they last met on Oct. 14, Belmont stormed out to a 3-0 lead before the Timberwolves came back with four unanswered goals for the 4-3 victory.

Fifth-seeded Belmont (11-5-2) took the first turn at the momentum wheel on Saturday, as the Red Raiders struck just 9:39 into the first half. Junior Kayli Ennis ripped a shot from just outside the penalty box on the right side, and her floater got over PM goalkeeper Shannon Meyer's head for an early 1-0 Belmont lead.

The lead doubled just seven minutes later, as McKenzie Phelps roared up the left side of the field and got in alone on Meyer. Her low shot managed to trickle through the sophomore keeper and the Raiders had a 2-0 advantage.

"I think a lot of it is nerves," said PM coach Matt Locke of his team's early struggles. "They get so uptight and it shows, they're just kicking the ball. And you pay for it, you don't create a lot of opportunities playing like that and we can definitely play a lot better than that."

Belmont looked to add a third goal with just under 10 minutes left before halftime, as a flurry of chances saw Phelps, Cassie Contigiani and Mikaela Guertin all get shots on net before the ball was ultimately cleared out of danger.

"I thought the one that really hurt in the long run was that play, because it would've made it 3-0," said Belmont coach Amy Dutton. "There was one where we kind of got caught watching and if we had followed through on the play, I thought it surely would've been a goal. They saved a couple of backsides too where we beat the goalie and we didn't quite finish it off."

Not satisfied to enter halftime down 2-0, the Timberwolves (13-3-1) rebounded in a big way in the final minutes of the opening frame. Junior Kelly Jones made a nice run into Belmont territory, and she laid off a nice pass to Britney Therrien just inside the 18. Therrien did the rest, as she ran onto the ball and flicked it past a charging Amelia Kotusky in the Belmont net to cut the deficit to 2-1 with six minutes to play.

"Because it was a home field advantage, I think that got into our minds that we had to do this for us and our crowd because this is the last time we're playing on this field," said Brown.

With just under two minutes to go in the half, PM struck again. Therrien hit a cross from the outside that was tipped into the mixer by Kirby Beranger. Jones was there to finish it off, as she tied the game 2-2 heading into intermission.

"We've always been a comeback team," said Brown. "Once we fell behind we knew we had to come back, and when we tied it they knew we were coming right back at them."

Nicole Dwyer had a chance for PM early in the second half, though Kotusky pounced on her shot to end the scramble in front of the Belmont net.

The back-and-forth nature of the game saw the Raiders grab the next tally with 26:47 left in regulation, as Belmont was awarded a free kick just outside the right corner of the 18. Guertin's low shot off the direct kick beat Meyer to the near post, and the visitors led again at 3-2.

"We had a lot of confidence throughout, no doubt about it," said Dutton. "We felt if we just came out and played our game, we'd be in good shape. We decided to keep it simple and focus on what got us here. Down the stretch, (momentum) shifted so quickly, especially off of a corner kick. It was just great back and forth, exciting soccer. It was a great game to coach in, a great game to be a fan in."

Belmont hoped to have a chance to put the game away with 13:30 left, as Phelps was taken down in the box by a PM defender and a foul was called. With obstruction being the call, the Raiders were awarded an indirect kick from inside the box, and Guertin's cross was headed wide of the net by Contigiani.

Running out of time, the Timber Wolves struck for the equalizer with just six minutes to play. Beranger's strike from distance beat Kotusky up high to the far post, pumping life back into the home crowd and sending things to overtime all even at 3-3.

"You've got to make the most of your opportunities because they were so infrequent," said Locke.

Both teams had chances in the first OT, but Brown's take charge play kept the Timber Wolves moving on to the semifinals. PM was scheduled to take on top-seeded Bow High School Wednesday night after deadline. The teams met in the season-opener back in August, with Bow picking up a 9-1 win. Much has changed since then.

"I think since it was our first game of the season and we didn't know how to pass," recalled Brown. "But now that we know how to pass, I think we stand a chance against them."

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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