On Wednesday, the junior got an opportunity to shine at the other end of the field. She made the most of the chance by burying a penalty kick to lift the Blue Bombers to a 1-0 victory over Moriah in the Section VII, Class C semifinals.
After the two teams played scoreless soccer for 80 minutes of regulation and another 30 minutes of overtime, Leff ended the game as Lake Placid’s fifth and final shooter when she ripped a shot past Moriah goalie Haley Waldron to break a 1-1 tie in the penalty kick session. The shot sent the Blue Bombers to the championship match for the third year in a row.
“It’s pretty nerve-racking to have a game like this come down to penalty kicks,” Leff said. “Neither team could score in regulation and the overtimes, and if I didn’t make the shot, this game could have gone on and on. I was nervous, but I was confident I could make the shot.
“We’re really excited,” Leff added. “We’ve lost by 1-0 scores the last two years in the final, so I’m hoping it’s our turn to win a championship. I feel good about our chances.”
The top-seeded Blue Bombers will play for the sectional championship next Thursday on the same pitch in Clintonville against Seton Catholic, a 1-0 winner over Northern Adirondack on Wednesday. Lake Placid’s players are familiar with the Knights after two Northern Soccer League Division II meetings this season.
Lake Placid certainly had plenty of opportunities to win in regulation Wednesday after outshooting Moriah by a 14-4 margin. In the second half alone, the Blue Bombers narrowly missed scoring on a pair of chances, once when Mackenzie Kemmerer rattled a shot off the goalpost and a second opportunity when Kendra Manning ripped a high shot that banged off the crossbar back into the field of play.
Despite the close calls, the Vikings turned in a strong effort on defense and were anchored by a talented goalkeeper in Waldron, who made 14 stops prior to the penalty kick session that saw five players from each team take shots. Waldron netted the lone Vikings goal when it came down to penalty kicks to decide the match. Carissa Kennedy, a freshman fullback, scored the first Lake Placid goal in the penalty kicks.
Leff and the Blue Bombers also had some luck on their side as two Vikings shots in the penalty kicks caromed off the crossbar and away from the net.
“I definitely had confidence in Liz’s penalty shot ability,” said Lake Placid head coach Heather Brewer. “It’s not easy saving penalty kicks, and I’m glad we had her back there. I was pretty happy to have her shooting, too.
“This isn’t the first time it’s come down to the wire like this for us,” Brewer added. “We’ve had a lot of close games in the playoffs, and it’s difficult when it comes down to penalty kicks. It’s really exciting when you win in penalty kicks, but I also know what it’s like to lose. We were fortunate today. Moriah played well, especially on defense.”
Lou Reuter/Lake Placid News
Lake Placid teammates swarm their goalkeeper Liz Leff after the junior scored the winning goal on a shootout penalty kick to lift the Blue Bombers past Moriah in Wednesday’s Section VII, Class C semifinal match at AuSable Valley High School in Clintonville.