DEXTER Watertowns Noah Taylor has been in pressure situations before, but none like he faced on Thursday night.
With the score tied against rival Indian River after 100 minutes of soccer, including four sudden-death overtime time periods, and with penalty kicks looming, the senior goalkeeper took a moment of reflection for himself.
This brief period of meditation must have worked as Taylor came through when it counted most as the Cyclones once again turned back the Warriors.
That was the most stress Ive had ever in my life, Taylor said. I just laid down over there on the turf for a moment and tried to just collect myself. I hoped something good would happen, and luckily it did.
With the game tied at 1-1 through overtime, Taylor stopped two penalty kicks, including the clinching save after Matt Olney converted on what would be the decisive kick, as Watertown edged Indian River on penalty kicks, 4-3, in the Frontier Leagues A Division boys soccer final at General Brown High School.
It was a hard-fought game, said Watertown coach Todd Heckman, and I thought the goalkeepers made some outstanding saves at the end to really keep both teams in the game.
The Cyclones (14-0-2), the divisions regular-season champion, claimed their seventh consecutive division playoff title, but were once more pushed to the limit in the final by the Warriors (12-3-1).
Its like this every year, said Taylor, said Taylor, who finished with nine saves.
Last year we beat them 1-0 here, and this year it was 1-1 and went to PKs wow this is a nice way to win, Taylor added.
Later, Copenhagen edged past rival Lyme, 2-1, to win the leagues D Division playoff title.
Watertown, which edged Indian River, 1-0 last October in last years division final, this time led at halftime by the same score on Tyrell Thomas goal in the 25th minute as Thomas headed in a feed from Nick Long.
Undaunted, the Warriors drew even on Erick Torress goal in the 67th minute as he headed in a volley from Kyle Barker with 26:11 remaining in regulation.
Watertown had a prime scoring chance in the final minute as Indian River goalie Hunter Mullican (eight saves) knocked aside a deflected ball off a throw in by Brad McKinney.
After 20 minutes of overtime, which included a pair of 10-minute periods followed by two five-minute sessions, the Cylcones received penalty-kick tallies from Christian Jorden, Collin Jorden, McKinney and then Olney.
I definitely was nervous, Olney said. But I just thought of different situations where Ive been under pressure, like during big track meets. I just calmed myself down that way.
The Warriors scored on three on their first four penalty kicks, with conversions from Torres, Junior Malinoski and Tyler Cook to pull even at three.
Olney tallied the deciding PK by drilling a drive into the left corner of the net and Taylor sealed the win as he ranged high to get a hand on Ty Godins shot, which he knocked away.
I dont think I can ask any more of my kids in terms of effort, commitment to win and sacrificing themselves, Indian River coach Fred LaVancha said.
Im real proud of them, but it hurts, I think they deserved more, he added. But give Watertown credit they werent going to let us take anything easily.
COPENHAGEN 2, LYME 1
In the D Division final, Brenden Jacobs and Greg Kunert each scored in the first half to propel unbeaten Copenhagen past Lyme.
The Golden Knights (16-0), ranked seventh in the state, claimed their second consecutive division playoff crown by holding off the Indians in the second half.
We knew it was going to be a lot tougher this time, Copenhagen coach Scott Randall said.
Lyme is a big rival and everything is different in the postseason, he added. We knew that we had a challenge and they pressured us early. I thought we held our composure, continued to play our game and in the end we were successful.
Lyme (12-4), which was shut out twice by Copenhagen in the two meetings in the regular season, broke through with Mark Parkers unassisted goal in the 50th minute as he lined a direct kick past goalie Brandon Buckley to pull the Indians within 2-1.
I would say we responded very well after we gave the goal up, Randall said. Some teams may crumble, but chalk that up to mental toughness on our part. We didnt panic and stuck to the way we play.
Buckley, who is part of goalie tandem for the Golden Knights finished with seven saves after halftime to secure the win after teammate Robbie Groff stopped all four shots he faced in the first half.
Its pretty big for us, Kunert said of the title for Copenhagen, which has also won two straight division crowns. Im a senior and its a huge honor to win it again in two years. I just want them to win it again next year, that would be a wonderful thing if they could and great for the program.