Timing is everything in life.
Just ask Whitefish Bay forward Abby Starker, who happened to be in the right place at the right time Thursday in the WIAA sectional semifinal game the Blue Dukes hosted.
Just 28 seconds into overtime against border rival Nicolet, Bay midfielder Kelsey Corrigan launched a long bomb of a shot from the right side. The ball carried high and long in the cool, wet night air and struck the crossbar of the goal squarely.
It came down right at the feet of Starker, who was scarcely five yards in front of the Knight goal and she wasted no time in popping the shot in to decide the physical, hotly-contested game, 2-1.
"I mean, it was right there," said Starker. "I just hit it with my right foot and it went in."
With the win, the Blue Dukes (17-6-3) advance to a rematch of last year's WIAA sectional final at 7 p.m. Saturday, back on their home field, against defending state champion DSHA. The Dashers easily dispatched Oak Creek, 8-0, in the other sectional semifinal. Nicolet finished at 13-12-1
Bay coach Robert Williams was pleased with the come-from-behind win. The game itself was a vast departure from the Blue Dukes easy 6-0 regular season win over the Knights.
"Tony (Nicolet coach Quintero) does such a good job with his kids," Williams said. "It was a well-played game and we had to remain so patient. A lot of times this season, when we've gotten down, we've lost our composure, but this time we were able to stay the course."
Quintero thought Starker might have been off-side on the play, but the officials said she was not. He was very pleased with his team's defensive effort against the potent Blue Duke offense.
"I thought we did an absolutely fabulous job on that end," he said. "We knew they were a little stronger and more technically gifted, but I thought we team defended extremely well tonight."
And he had a point. Even though the Blue Dukes got the better of play in the first half, they only had a couple of really good scoring chances. Knight goalie Sarah Barth made one great reaching save early in the session and then later in the half, a Bay shot went off the left post.
The Knights then took advantage of a Blue Duke defensive lapse to take a 1-0 lead with just 48 seconds left in the half. Forward Laila Eslami took a long pass down the right side, got past one Bay defender, and when Blue Duke goalie Sarah Platzer couldn't scoop up the loose ball, Eslami swept past her to a wide open net and an easy goal.
Nicolet held that lead despite pressure from the Blue Dukes until the 65:24 mark of the second half, when a Bay player was pulled down in the box. Junior midfielder Lydia Kaminsky then stepped up and easily pounded in the penalty kick.
"It was a tough call at the time, but we'll take it," said Williams.
Quintero praised the efforts of Briana Lopez, Abby Williams and Barth.
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