BERLIN - The Berlin girls soccer team certainly made its Class L state tournament opener a dramatic one.
Fighting off freezing temperatures, the seventh-ranked Redcoats battled with No. 26 Joel Barlow through two overtime periods and then needed penalty kicks to decide the winner at Sage Park on Tuesday.
But it wasn’t until sophomore goalkeeper Natalia Chorzepa stopped the final Eagles’ shot to preserve a 6-5 shootout victory, and ultimately a 1-0 win, that Berlin knew it was going on to the second round.
“This is my first states game,” Chorzepa said. “So it was definitely a big nerve-racker going into my first PK’s. The first five I just came out there and I thought, ‘Nothing can get by you. You’re team is depending on you, you can do this and they can do this.’”
Olivia Salina broke the 5-5 shootout tie for the Redcoats, which took an early 3-1 advantage after Maria Butrimas, Jenna Zup and Hailey Nardelli each found the back of the net. But Joel Barlow fought back and Berlin (12-4-1) needed two more goals, one from Clare McGeever and Emma Norton to send Salina up to break the tie.
“I told the girls whatever happens, happens,” Redcoats head coach Alex Joslyn said. “We’ve been practicing [penalty kicks] for a little over a week. If it was meant to be, it was meant to be. At that point, it comes down to a crapshoot and we were fortunate enough to come out on the winning end of this.”
“I’m proud of the girls and what they’ve been able to overcome with the amount of injuries they’ve had to deal with this season,” he added.
Berlin will face No. 23 Daniel Hand (7-7-3) in the second round at Sage Park on Thursday.
For the first 100 minutes of the match it was all defense as both teams were able to create scoring chances, but were unable to materialize them into goals. Chorzepa made 12 saves during the match, while Joel Barlow keeper Gia Giorgianni finished with 17 saves.
Zup had a pair of chances to put a goal on Berlin’s side of the scoreboard in the final two minutes of the first overtime period, but sailed both of them high over the goal.
The Falcons’ best opportunities came in the second half of regulation, but Chorzepa kept the game scoreless. A corner kick from the Falcons in the 49th minute led to a high shot on goal that Chorzepa extended her reach to the crossbar to tap over the net. She made the same save in the 77th minute on one of Joel Barlow’s final offensive attempts of regulation.
“Before the game when we were practicing I realized there was ice on my hands,” Chorzepa said. “We knew that this was going to happen, we knew that we had to be prepared, we knew that they felt the cold and we felt the cold we just had to be the tougher team.”
The Redcoats missed a prime opportunity to score with 20 seconds remaining in the first half when Giorgianni punched away a Berlin corner kick.
Joslyn said the cold weather affected both sides early on and it began to show more late in the match.
“I think it impacted both teams,” Joslyn said. “I think at first they were both getting adjusted. The weather impacted stamina for sure both teams got gassed especially towards the end of both overtimes.”
Matt Hornick can be reached at email@example.com