By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Avery Bowler knew she had to take her time. Otherwise, she might have fainted.
The stakes were that high.
“Walking up, it was the scariest moment of my life,” said Bowler, a sophomore. “My heart was racing. I just tried to take slow steps or else I was going to pass out. It was crazy.”
With one calm swing of her right leg, Bowler’s nerves turned into elation.
Bowler converted the decisive penalty kick as Springfield Catholic upset top seed Glendale 1-0 (5-4 PKs) in the Class 3 District 10 Tournament championship game.
It was sweet payback for a Catholic team that lost 4-0 to Glendale just three weeks ago.
“We came in with the mindset that we have nothing to lose,” said Catholic senior Hayley Singleton. “Glendale was probably thinking it’d be easy, since they won 4-0 the first time.
“But we came in thinking, ‘If we lose (again), Glendale already beat us.”
Said Bowler: “We saw that Glendale had lost to Nixa and Kickapoo – which were two of our closest games – so we knew we were better than what we showed the first time.”
The victory gives Catholic (16-5-2 overall) its fourth straight district championship dating back to 2017. The Lady Irish play at the winner of District 9 – Union or Pacific – on May 25 in the Class 3 sectional round.
By choice, Bowler went last for Catholic in the five-round penalty kick session on Wednesday night. When Glendale missed on its fifth try, the match was on Bowler’s shoulders.
“I volunteered to go last because, first, I didn’t think it was going to get to that point,” Bowler said. “Second off, if it did get to that, I was going to finish it if it came to that opportunity.”
Bowler made her penalty kick for the win.
Then came the dogpile. A wet dogpile, that is.
In a game played amid off-and-on rain, Bowler’s teammates rushed from mid-field in celebration, all of them wearing soaked uniforms.
“Being on the line for PKs, I was one of the first players to run up and hug Avery,” Singleton said. “I tackled her to the ground and then everyone was on top of me.”
With a wet field, both teams had few scoring chances throughout regulation and the two overtime sessions.
Glendale (16-4 overall) had the edge in possession and shots on goal. The Falcons put a scare into the Catholic side late in the second overtime, when a shot hit the right post and nearly bounced through.
“Winning any type of title or championship, you gotta have a little bit of luck,” said Catholic coach Mike Hines. “And we had a little bit of luck in this match.”
Hines praised his defense – highlighting the play of senior Kaitlyn Stickney and freshman Kennedi Roubal specifically – for keeping Glendale off the scoreboard.
“I can’t say enough about how (Kaitlyn) has played these last four or five games,” Hines said. “She’s my defensive MVP, along with Kennedi Roubal. They just played fantastic. And they had to, because Glendale put a lot of pressure on us.”
Catholic had extra motivation coming into this week.
Due to a coin flip, the host Lady Irish were the No. 3 seed for the district tournament. They trounced No. 2 seed Branson 5-1 in Monday’s semifinals.
“It’s really rewarding, especially because we came into this tournament as the underdogs,” Singleton said. “Nobody expected us to win. To battle for 80 minutes then two overtimes and win in PKs, it’s really satisfying.”