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Barkley stands tall as Coal City wins soccer regional

Coalers win in eighth round of penalty kicks

MANTENO – Coal City soccer player Clarissa Barkley stands all of 4-foot-10 1/2 inches.

"Don't forget the half!" her mother said.

She's heard all the nicknames, too.

"Mighty Mouse, Blondie, Half-Pint," she listed a few names she has been called. "I kind of like Mighty Mouse right now."

Indeed, she should. Much as Mighty Mouse's catch phrase was "Here I come to save the day!", Barkley saved Coal City's day in Friday's Class 1A Reed-Custer Regional title game against Herscher. In the eighth round of penalty kicks after the teams played to a 2-2 tie after regulation and two 10-minute overtime periods, Barkley slipped a shot in the lower left corner of the net to give her team a thrilling 3-2 victory.

"I like to look right, then shoot left," Barkley said. "That's my thing."

That thing was good enough for the team to mob her in the middle of the field, as the Coalers won their second straight regional title.

Coal City (11-3) didn't get off to a great start, allowing a goal in the first two minutes of the game. Brittany Jezik answered with a goal at the 23:32 mark of the first half, and Tori Knutson gave the Coalers a 2-1 lead with 6:14 left when her shot bounced off the crossbar, then hit the Herscher goalie's back and rebounded into the goal.

"That was the first time this year we have been behind and come back," Coal City coach Michael Kostbade said. "For not having been in that situation before, it shows a lot about the character of the girls."

That character was tested in the second half, when Herscher's Taylre Devine scored with 35:38 to play in regulation. With a stiff wind blowing at their backs, the Tigers were able to keep the ball in the Coal City zone for most of the second half. However, the staunch Coal City defense prevented them from getting many shots on goal, and when they did, goalie Britta Spelde was there to make the save. She made 11 saves in the second half and overtime to keep the Tigers at bay.

"Our defense has been great all year," Kostbade said. "Those four girls – Ashley Jezik, Danielle VanCura, Taylor McCullough and Kristen Pearcy – and Britta [Spelde] work each other so well. They wanted to know at the start of practice who was going to be on defense so they could get to know how they all play. They can anticipate where the others are going to be, so they know where they should go.

"We have also been fortunate to keep our health. It's not common for a soccer team to go through the year without a significant injury, but we have done it."

After the second overtime period, the score was still 2-2 and the game went to a five-round contest of penalty kicks. Each team scored three times, and it went to a sudden death round. Herscher went first and Spelde denied the first three Herscher shooters. When it was Coal City's turn in the third round, Mighty Mouse saved the day.

"I expected nothing but a tight game with these guys," Kostbade said. "The last time we played them, it came down to penalty kicks, too. I am so happy for these girls. This [a regional title] was one of our goals this season and they showed tonight that they wanted it."

Coal City plays at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Manteno sectional semifinals against the winner of Chicago Carver and Chicago St. Francis de Sales.

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