Stars shine in Foothill Finale

Written by Alex MacLean, The Union Democrat June 12, 2013 08:00 pm

Bret Harte’s Allie Steele (middle) celebrates her goal with Schultz (right) and Bullfrog Lauran Redding (3, left), Tuesday, in the Foothill Finale, North versus South All-Star Game in Angels Camp. Maggie Beck / Union Democrat
It appeared the first-ever Mother Lode League girls’ soccer all-star game was in the booksTuesday night, with the North team walking off Dorroh Field victorious 2-1 after a grueling 90-minute battle.

However, the soccer gods were kind to the South team, comprised of All-League selections from Calaveras, Bret Harte and Summerville, and the referee gave them another opportunity due to a blown call on an earlier penalty kick.

With only about six minutes remaining in regulation time, Nicole Schultz placed a penalty kick into the left corner of the net that would have tied the game, 2-2, but was nullified due to a South player encroaching the goalie box.

Official rules state Schultz should have been given another attempt at the kick because she made the goal, but the North, comprised of All-League picks from Amador and Argonaut, ended up with possession of the ball and were able to run out the remaining clock without another score. 

Coaches from both teams met with refs in the middle of the field after the final whistle blew and Schultz was granted her second chance and took full advantage, blasting a well-placed shot into the back of the net.

“I’ve never seen a ref do that and I think it was great,” said Bret Harte head coach and South co-head coach Rosie Sundell. “He could have just let it go but he said, ‘Hey, the rules say you should have gotten to kick again so we’re going to do it.’ You don’t always see refs rise to that level when they know they’ve made a mistake and he did.”

The unexpected — but welcome — turn of events for the South led to a shootout that also came down to the wire. A 4-4 tie in the first round set up sudden death in which the North was ultimately victorious.

Sundell said that Tuesday night was “everything she hoped it would be” despite the tough loss.

“It’s always fun to see rivals come together and it was really fun to watch the girls enjoy it,” Sundell said. “It’s great to be recognized as an all-star and to have an opportunity to play in another game makes it even better.”

Sundell spearheaded the effort to organize the inaugural postseason game pitting the MLL’s All-League selections against each other. She guided the South from the sidelines with fellow MLL head coaches Brad Schultz, of Summerville, and Rob Leetham, of Calaveras.

Barron Peterson, head coach of the 2013 Sac-Joaquin Division VI champion Amador Buffaloes and co-head coach of the North with Argonaut boss Ed Speer, said it was a “fun game to be a part of” and would like to see it become an annual tradition.

“The South is full of great players and I really thought they were the better team altogether,” said a humble Peterson. “But we got a couple lucky breaks.”

It was an even battle throughout most of the first half until the South team started to take control midway through and scored the game’s first goal at about 38 minutes.

After 2013 Union Democrat All-Area MVP Tiffany Souza and First Teamer Nicole Schultz combined to make several threatening attacks on the North’s goal, Bret Harte’s Allie Steele found herself in the right place at the right time — and made the right decision.

“Their sweeper was trying to clear the ball and it actually hit me in the face,” Steele said. “My momentum then carried me forward and I saw the goalie coming out of the box so I just wanted to place it in the corner.”

Steele did just that and celebrated her goal with a little dance, which coaches allowed to promote a fun atmosphere for the exhibition game.

The North would answer in the second half with a goal by MLL Midfielder of the Year Madissen Ostergaard at about 15:45 followed by another from Argonaut’s Michelle Bueso eight minutes later.

“We know most of the girls from all the other games and they played well together,” said MLL Goalkeeper of the Year and All-Area First Teamer Larissa Barrett, of Summerville.

Barrett had to stare down six kickers during the shootout and said being successful in those situations requires a combination of instinct and skill. The recent-graduate doesn’t plan on playing soccer next year in college but spoke on the benefits of bringing teams together for an all-star game at the end of the season.

“Everyone on the South side became really friendly and close,” she said. “It was good to work with people who we formerly considered our rivals. Now we’re friends with them and can work together. It teaches a life skill and is fun at the same time.”

Calaveras freshman Pookie Deckman had a strong first season for the Redskins this year, but head coach Rob Leetham explained that there weren’t enough All-League selections for her to make the team.

But Deckman not only got to play Tuesday as a substitute for another freshman who couldn’t make it, she proved to be a constant threat on offense and played almost the entire game.

“I got the call today, got ready real quick and came down here,” she said. “It was really fun getting to play with all of the Bret Harte and Summerville girls. We all bonded really well and I’m so glad I got to be a part of it.”