Since there are no penalty kick shootouts in girls soccer until the postseason, replicating the pressure of the moment can come only in on-the-job training.
Or, in the case of Ripon Christian High School goalkeeper Bryanna Heida, you look for subtle clues.
The junior says she looks for hints as to which way the shooter might be headed. It could be a turn of the hips, or eyes glancing suddenly toward a corner of the net.
And then, she guesses.
Heida guessed correctly and stopped Millennium’s first penalty kick in Saturday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII title game at Lincoln High, and the Knights rode that momentum to win 4-1 in penalty kicks after the teams played to a 1-1 draw in regulation.
And just like that, Ripon Christian claimed the first girls soccer title in school history.
“It’s a big one,” said coach Kevin Tameling. “The girls program at RC has been around since the late ’90s and hasn’t had a lot of success. But in the last few years, the girls have put in a lot of effort and time and have done really well.”
Both teams scored in the first half, then engaged in a midfield war through the second overtime, with the Falcons, 15-2-2 under former Central Catholic coach and Cal State Stanislaus assistant Dominic Figueroa, generally controlling the action.
Ripon Christian was up first in the shootout, and senior Adrianna Van Groningen beat Millennium goaltender Anekha Birdi with a low drive into the left side.
Senior captain Annie Bradley was up first for Millennium and tried to beat Heida with a low shot to the right side. Heida dived and smothered the shot.
“On the one I saved, I didn’t see anything at all,” Heida said. “On the others, I just gave my best try.”
Ripon Christian’s Teagan Manus, Courtney Bloemhof and gifted freshman Abby Buitrago all found the left side of the net with their penalty shots.
Hannah Moyer was second up for Millennium and scored to the left, but Cassie Scudder, shooting third for the Falcons, pulled her try wide of the left post.
Buitrago’s drive was the winner and counts as her 52nd goal of the season after the Falcons did a great job marking her the entire game.
“We tried to keep her under wraps this year, but they obviously knew about her,” Tameling said. “She’s a special, special player. The things she does up top creatively allows us to stay together defensively in the back.”
Ripon Christian (21-2-1) had three great scoring chances in the opening moments. Two were turned away in spectacular fashion by Birdi, but the third was a point-blank putaway by Cynthia Van Vliet off a spot-on cross from Van Groningen.
Millennium answered in the 22nd minute as Victoria Garza right-foot volleyed home a low cross from Reina Perales.
“It feels good,” Tameling said. “The girls have worked very hard all year long, and this is a culmination of that work. They deserve it.”
And that came after arguably the area’s most talented player scored two goals and watched as sister Ilena Rivera, a freshman, notched the third just before halftime to give East Union (19-0-1) a 3-1 lead.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Isela Rivera, who is headed to San Jose State on an athletic scholarship. “We had a goal at the beginning of the year to go to sections, and to win it feels even better.”
Junior forward Mary Meyer scored unassisted for Vista del Lago (13-2-3), of Folsom, in the 65th minute to pull the Eagles within a goal, but the Lancers loaded the defensive end and held off the barrage to get the win.
“It was so intense at the end,” Rivera said. “When they scored that second goal, our thought was that we still had a one-goal lead, so we just had to do what we needed to win the game.”
It was the third section title for Christian Brothers and first since 2006. Manteca (18-5-2) was making its third appearance in a section championship game, having lost to Sierra in 2004 and Oakmont of Roseville in 2005.