It took the Arroyo Grande High girls soccer team more than three full games to break through San Luis Obispo’s defense.
But when it mattered most, the Eagles converted a penalty kick in overtime to beat the Tigers 1-0 in a crucial PAC 7 game Wednesday in San Luis Obispo.
After a scoreless 80 minutes, Arroyo Grande freshman Mallory Flatebo drew a penalty in the box just two minutes into overtime that Kate Reinhardt converted to give the Eagles (18-3, 8-1) sole possession of the league lead.
Flatebo made a long run down the right side into the box and went sprawling face-first to the ground where the referee called a penalty on San Luis Obispo’s Vivien Devaney.
Arroyo Grande had not scored against the Tigers (12-2-4, 7-2) in two games this season, winning on penalty kicks after a scoreless draw at the Garces Holiday Soccer Festival and falling 4-0 in league play in January.
With what would likely be their best chance to find the net, Reinhardt conferred with teammate Ashley Roese on who should take the important kick.
“Ashley said, ‘I believe in you,’ so I went out there and shot it,” Reinhardt said. “It was exhilarating. It was awesome.” But even the penalty shot was almost stopped.
San Luis Obispo goalkeeper Lauren Harper — who had been tested several times already — got a fingertip on the ball as it deflected just past her into the corner of the net.
“I went tense in the chest and held my breath just hoping it goes in because I saw her touch it,” Reinhardt said.
The game was extremely physical with a total of 42 fouls called on both teams and several yellow cards issued.
“SLO has always been a tough team physically, so we wanted to come and out and play just as physical,” Reinhardt said.
But no call was bigger than the foul in overtime.
“The referee called 42 fouls, and I saw 15 or 20 fouls that were worse than that right there,” Tigers coach John Clarke said. “I think that they got tangled up and (Flatebo) is probably 100 pounds lighter than my defender and she fell. It’s hard to swallow. The girls will be upset that this game was decided by a penalty kick for sure.”
The game was played primarily in San Luis Obispo’s half of the field, particularly in the first half, where Arroyo Grande pressured Harper into making several saves.
“In a game that’s as physical as this game right here, no one wants to get hit,” Clarke said. “It’s tough to keep possession when everyone is being so physical.”
After the last meeting between the two teams in which the Tigers scored four goals, Arroyo Grande coach Laurie Owens said her team was looking for some revenge.
“After we lost to them 4-0, we’ve been working hard in practice just for this game,” Owens said. “So we came in with more intensity this time.”
The Eagles are on track to claim their second consecutive league title. Both teams have three PAC 7 games left and each team has a meeting with Righetti in the final two weeks.
The Warriors (13-5, 5-2) are the only other team to beat San Luis Obispo in league play and are still alive in the hunt for a league title.
“We’re not in control anymore,” Clarke said. “Arroyo Grande is in control of their destiny now.”