BY ED WRIGHT
June 9, 2010, 7:35 a.m.
Second chances are either priceless or worthless, depending upon what you do with them.
With the pressure meter reading "extra high", Plymouth senior Katie Krajewski turned her reprieve into gold during Tuesday's night's penalty-kick shoot-out against Dearborn in a Division 1 Regional semifinal game played at the PCEP varsity soccer stadium.
After the initial five Plymouth and Dearborn shooters connected on four of five shots each, the format moved into a sudden-victory phase, where if one team's shooter scored and the other's missed - or vice versa - the match was over.
Krajewski, the Wildcats' sixth shooter, saw her initial shot stoned by Dearborn keeper Samantha Wilson.
But the heads-up senior also saw something else, just before her shot.
"I saw her (Wilson) move just before I shot it, so I was calling for a re-do," she reflected. "I'm glad we got it."
Ruling that Wilson did move too soon, the referee awarded Krajewski new life and she responded with flying colors by banging the ball into the top-left shelf of the net.
The Pioneers' sixth shooter - Wilson - hit her shot over the cross-bar, setting off the Wildcats' third joyous victory celebration of the week.
The 1-0 victory vaulted Plymouth into Thursday's Regional final showdown against rival Canton, which beat Ann Arbor Pioneer, 2-1.
Thursday's final is set for 6 p.m.at the PCEP varsity soccer stadium.
Given new life on her penalty kick, Krajewski said she wasn't about to change her strategy.
"I always put it in the same spot," she said. "I never change - even in practice - because If I change it, I mess up.
"We didn't know much about Dearborn before the match since we don't play them in our league. But other coaches who have seen them play said we could handle them, but they surprised us. Thankfully, we stepped up to the challenge."
The first round of the shoot-out got off to an ominous start for the Wildcats when Abby Livingston's first shot sailed high. Katie Authier put the Pioneers up 1-0 with a no-doubt, low-left bullet past Plymouth keeper Marissa Williams.
Plymouth regrouped by netting three straight PK's off the foots of Jessica Scott, Jessica Heck and Katie Moss to knot the scoring at 3-3 before Williams stepped up big time, deflecting Alyssa Hespen's middle-of-the-net rocket off the bar.
After Jennifer Babcock and Ana Saucedo converted shots, the match move to the ultra-tense sudden-victory shootout.
"We've been working on PK's a lot the past few weeks, so I was confident, especially with Marissa out there," said Plymouth coach Jeff Neschich, whose team improved to 12-4-4. "You can count on her to come up with at least one stop, sometimes two or three."
The Wildcats have not scored or yielded a regulation goal throughout their entire three-game post-season.
"Obviously, our defense has been the key," said Neschich. "We're not letting teams score on us."
Along with the stellar play of Williams, the 'Cats' back-line of Katie Moss, Meeghan Hughes, Alyssa Burris and Krajewski have been coming up huge. Jessica Heck also dropped back a lot to help keep the Pioneers' side of the scoreboard dark.
The Wildcats played without three key starters again Tuesday: Karley McQuiston, Katelyn Quinlan and Megan Peplinski. Peplinski may return before the season ends.
"Dealing with injuries all year, forces you to have everybody sharp and ready," said Neschich. "It benefited us that we've had to deal with injuries early, so we've had kids prepared."
Plymouth nearly won the game in the closing minutes of regulation.
With 12:10 left, a laser off the foot of McKenzie Hengesh was wrapped up by Galimberti as it hummed in the direction of the back of the net.
Freshman Stephanie Dillon nearly turned into the hero when, after making a great individual move 30 yards outs, she drilled a clothesline shot that skipped just wide of the right post.
Dillon connected with Heck on a corner with 6:20 left, but the ensuing shot missed the mark by a few feet.
Then with 2:20 to play, Hengesh found an opening 20 yards out and unleashed a missile that missed the left post by cruised wide of the left post by less than five feet.
But in the end, the near-misses didn't matter, thanks to Krajewski's golden reprieve, Williams leading tip and the admirable resolve the entire team has displayed throughout the post-season.
"This feels awesome concluded Krajewski. "I've been waiting for this since I was a freshman.
"It's definitely been worth the wait."
Ed Wright can be
reached at (734) 453-1980 or email@example.com.
Vittoria Miller makes a run upfield during the first half of Tuesday's game. (Ed Hengesh photo)
Jessica Heck (right) and Dearborn's Katrina Greathouse elevate for a
ball. (Ed Wright photo)
Jennifer Babcock (13) settles a ball during the first half. (Ed Wright
Stephanie Dillon penetrates the Dearborn defense. (Ed Wright photo)
Hengesh runs stride for stride with a Dearborn player. (Ed Wright photo)