PERRY — Final second shots are a normality on the hardwood.
But when it comes to soccer, they are few and far between.
Unfortunately for Perry, as the clock ticked to less than 10 seconds in the second round of the GHSA Class AAA playoffs on Tuesday, Spalding’s Lauren Barlow found the back of the net off of a perfect corner kick from Marisa Leary, handing the Panthers a heartbreaking 3-2 defeat.
“I can’t say enough about how proud I am of our team,” Perry head coach Courtney Herbert said. “Spalding is the No. 5 team in the state and we played them down to the wire. We may not have won this game, but I feel like our girls won.”
Starting the game, Spalding made a point to come out as the aggressor. Penetrating through the Panthers’ defense, striker Kristen Hassey took the pass from Leary and perfectly placed the ball into the net to give Spalding the early 1-0 lead.
Leary had all three assists for Spalding.
“Getting on the scoreboard first is always important, but I feel like it was especially big in this game,” Spalding head coach Wayne Gardner said. “We didn’t want them getting that lead.”
Despite recording in excess of 25 shots in each of its previous five games, Perry was held to just three shots on goal in the opening 40 minutes.
The Panthers’ lone first half corner kick sailed behind the net for a Spalding goal kick.
“I thought we had a few minor inconsistencies that cost us in the first half,” Herbert said. “I feel like we just needed to find where we were on the field and keep hustling after every ball.”
With Perry struggling to produce offense, the Panthers’ defense made sure Spalding did not add to its advantage.
Led by the relentless on-the-ball pressure by Tiffany James, Perry limited the number of Spalding breakaways and made sure the score remained at 1-0 heading into halftime.
“When it’s just a one goal game at halftime, we knew it was far from over,” Herbert said. “We were playing well enough to win.”
Starting the second half, the Perry offense began to play with something to prove.
Controlling the time of possession, the Panthers failed to convert on their opening two shots of the half before Spalding was whistled for a foul just outside of the box. Taking advantage of the free kick, junior Allison Burnham rifled the ball into the upper right corner on the net to tie the game at 1.
“Allison is just a playmaker,” Herbert said. “That free kick was right in her range and she kicked it perfectly.”
Spalding, however, wasted little time in answering Burnham’s goal.
Less than 10 minutes after Perry tied the score, Spalding responded in convincing fashion. Gathering the pass from Leary, Barlow managed to get the ball passed Perry’s goalie Sarah Cossart to again regain the advantage.
“That was a great goal and assist by Lauren and Marisa,” Gardner said. “Even though they had tied the score our girls stayed patient with what they were doing.”
Although Perry responded to tie the game at 2 on a penalty kick from Desirae Calvin, the Panthers were never able to take a lead.
As the game clock melted below one minute in regulation, Spalding put together a final surge to end the contest in regulation.
Almost identically to earlier in the game, Leary found an unattended Barlow in front of the net and gave her a spot on pass. Barlow proceeded to beat the horn and score with 9.2 seconds left in the 79th minute.
“If there is any time left on that clock, our girls are going to keep fighting,” Gardner said. “They just don’t let down for a second. This was a great win.”