Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Corks pop when LP finally gets the shootout right

Laurent Perrier women win soccer tournament, in sudden death

Express Staff Writer

Laurent Perrier players pose with their champagne after Sunday's championship game victory. Front, from left, Casey Mills, Ashley Brown, keeper Kelly Haisley, Jenni Conrad, Laura Mitchell, Jody Zarkos, Lynette Kerns and Margo Ros. Back, from left, Lara Stone, Langely McNeal, Lynn Chaldu, coach Casey Finegan, captain Siobhan Sutton, Jessie Kolkmann, Joslyn Dollar, Carolina Stevens and Kate Mahoney. Express photo by Jeff Cordes

After two misfires, the third shootout turned out to be the charm for the Laurent Perrier women's soccer team Sunday in a dramatic finale to its annual two-day tournament at Ketchum's Atkinson Park.

Champagne corks popped after Carolina Stevens drilled a kick into the corner of the net lifting Laurent Perrier to a 5-4 sudden death overtime shootout triumph over Boise Zif in the championship game of the 24th annual tournament.

Earlier, Lynette Kerns, Jenni Conrad, Joslyn Dollar and Laura Mitchell made their kicks to tie it 4-4 after the first five shooters. With the outcome pushed in a sudden death situation, Boise shot wide on its sixth try and Stevens ended it with a well-placed arrow.

Stevens' winner finished a long but very successful day for Laurent Perrier, which won 5-1 and 5-0 preliminary contests Sunday before playing Boise Zif to a 0-0 draw after 80 minutes of regulation and 10 minutes of overtime in the title game.

The championship was a hard-fought battle between well-matched teams. It wiped out the memories of two setbacks Saturday when Laurent Perrier fought to 1-1 and 3-3 ties with the Boise Contenders and Park City and then lost both shootouts that were used to determine the outcomes.

Coach Casey Finegan said, "The girls were hurt, injured and very tired but they fought hard every second. The whole game was amazing—very impressive to watch. And it was a good way to end it after we lost the two shootouts Saturday."

The LP women were certainly determined to wipe the slate clean Sunday, particularly after Saturday's bitter loss to Park City in which the Ketchum kickers squandered a 2-0 halftime lead and petered out with a 3-1 loss in the shootout. As coach Finegan said wryly afterward, "It was our game to lose and we did."

Similarly, Laurent Perrier marched out to a 2-0 halftime lead over Park City in Sunday's semi-final as fleet-footed Jenni Conrad flashed behind the Utah defense for two great goals, the first assisted by Casey Mills. But would the outcome be the same as Saturday?


Captain Siobhan Sutton, the anchor of Sun Valley's incredibly tough defense at sweeper Sunday, said the LP women didn't even talk at halftime about the possibility of another Park City comeback.

Sutton said, "We just pretended like we were down instead of leading. We got grumpy and we got mad. We played hard and intense."

Encouraged by a fine save by goalie Kelly Haisley at the corner of the net to rob Park City's captain Brooke Hontz early in the second half, Laurent Perrier pressed its attack and earned a corner kick which was taken by Sutton. She took nearly all the team's corner kicks last weekend.

Watching Sutton's arching, deep-into-the-box corner kicks was wonderous thing.

This time, 11 minutes into the half, she dropped a rainbow into a crowd. The shortest but quickest player on the field, Jenni Conrad, headed it home for her "three-goal" natural hat trick. Ten minutes later, another Sutton orbital flight from the corner dropped on the foot of Mitchell, who tapped it in.

It became 4-0 Laurent Perrier and a berth in the championship game was in the bag.

Sutton said, "We just totally came together as a team. We were just pushing and pushing the whole time and going hard. We didn't let down at all."

Mills agreed. "Jenni Conrad was just awesome," she said.

So was the entire team.

The Laurent Perrier women learned from their experiences and created their own happy ending against Boise. Coach Finegan said, "We'd been through two shootouts already. Everybody just calmed down and made some well-placed, softer shots in the shootout."

The Laurent Perrier women, sponsored by Jim Cimino of Ketchum for nearly 25 years, popped the post-game champagne corks and celebrated their first victory in their home tournament since 2000.

In fact, you can count on one hand the times that Ketchum women have won their own tournament since their first triumph 23 years ago, in 1982. It's usually Utah or Boise. So last weekend was special.

Road to the championship

Saturday, Laurent Perrier started slowly with two losses—one game it really shouldn't have won, and one game it should have won.

Laurent Perrier and Boise Contenders played a scoreless first half, then Boise's Annie Gorski cashed in a left-footer 25 minutes into the second half for a 1-0 Boise lead. Although LP had chances, the home team couldn't break through until Sutton came to the rescue.

Given a free kick from 38 yards and informed by the center referee that it would be the final play of the game since time in the 40-minute second half had expired, Sutton launched a beauty that floated deep into the net for a 1-1 tie.

"We had been playing so well and we had a lot of opportunities," Sutton said. "It was a fun game, not too physical, just very evenly matched."

Coach Finegan added, "It was one of the best efforts we've had all season."

Boise was a little better in the shootout, though, winning 4-1 as Chelsea Melby, Loan Bean and Jessica Belden made the final three kicks to offset the only successful LP attempt, converted by Laura Mitchell.

The goalkeepers were Kristi Renak of Boise and Danielle Dorsch of LP, who is the starting senior goalkeeper at Albertson College.

Saturday's matinee between Laurent Perrier and Park City looked good for the home team, if only because Park City had lost its starting keeper to injury before the weekend and ended up using seven of its 11 players in the goal during Saturday's first two games.

Joslyn Dollar gave LP an early 1-0 lead on a feed from Casey Mills, then Mitchell made a tough-angled left-footed shot on a pass from Conrad for a 2-0 Laurent Perrier cushion at the 36-minute mark. Coach Finegan said he liked the way his team was playing.

"We had a real good short passing-on-the-ground game. We took our time, made really good crosses and made great plays. Overall our play was excellent," he said.

Unfortunately for LP, Park City's goalie for the first half, Amber Gale, came out of the net and up the field and popped in two goals in the opening four minutes of the second half—the first started along the right wing by a long pass by Brooke Hontz. Taken aback, LP didn't get a good shot until a Mitchell tester 20 minutes later.

Finally, LP regained the lead when Conrad dished a through ball that bounced past two Park City defenders. Nobody was marking Carolina Stevens, who made no mistake with her left foot for a 3-2 LP lead with only 10 minutes remaining.

Once again, Park City changed keepers—bringing the keeper who had been scored against, Melinda Midgley, up the field. And once again the former keeper produced as Midgley equalized 3-3 with an 18-yarder beating Dorsch.

Incredibly, Park City changed keepers again for the shootout and the newcomer, Kim Stephens, made saves on Casey Mills, Kate Mahoney and Siobhan Sutton. Only Conrad succeeded for LP, with a ground ball, while Park City's Jessica Moran, Hontz and Abbi Lathrop made their kicks for a 3-1 Park City triumph.

The first day ended with Park City in first place with 10 points, including its 2-0 shutout of Boise Zif. Boise Contenders were second with 9, including its 3-2 victory over a combined Boise/Sun Valley squad. Boise Zif was third with 6 including its 4-1 win over Boise/Sun Valley in the dinner game.

It put Laurent Perrier in fourth place with 5 points and Boise/Sun Valley in fifth place with no points, meaning the two local teams met at sunrise Sunday in a loser-out contest.

Boise/SV struck first when hard work by defender Sarah Benson freed up the ball for Kipp Mills, who scored high for a 1-0 Boise/Sun Valley lead at 12 minutes. It was the team's first shot. Laurent Perrier had dominated in the early phases.

But the eventual champions dominated the rest of the game.

Conrad (a team-leading 6 goals weekend including shootouts) stole the ball from the Boise/SV defense and stuffed it into the corner for a 1-1 tie. Stopper Ashley Brown's direct kick fell into a crowd and squirted out to Casey Mills on the other side, and Mills scooped it into the corner.

Joslyn Dollar muscled her way through the Boise/SV defense, had her first shot blocked and left-footed her second shot for a 3-1 lead at 28 minutes. Another Sutton corner kick fell tantalizingly into the box—and Dollar (5 goals weekend) tapped it home for her second goal of the first half.

Twelve minutes into the second half Laura Mitchell (5 goals weekend) spun away from the defense and finished the scoring at 5-1 with a top-shelf blast. Keeper Dorsch earned her first win, then handed the duties to former Wood River keeper Kelly Haisley for the final two games.

It was the Jenni Conrad show in the 5-0 semi-final against Park City, with Mitchell and Dollar adding the fourth and fifth goals. The score would have been even more lopsided, if not for several fine saves by Park City keeper Molly Finegan Kugler, who used to play for Wood River.

Boise Zif's 4-2 shootout triumph over Boise Contenders after a 1-1 regulation tie set the stage for a Laurent Perrier-Boise Zif championship game match-up. It turned out to be a close-to-the-vest and tiring defensive battle. "Both teams were similar in style and play," LP coach Finegan said.

Fortunately for the weary LP women, they picked up some local players from Boise/SV like Jody Zarkos, Margo Ros and Lynette Kerns. Zarkos had the best scoring chances in the second half, but neither team ended up scoring in regulation or in the 10-minute overtime period.

Goalkeepers Kate Bowen of Zif and Haisley of LP were the brave souls between the pipes as hundreds of sun-baked spectators watched the exciting conclusion to the tournament.

Boise's Walker Lorenzo beat Haisley's diving lunge, then LP's Kerns hit the top shelf for a 1-1 tie. A Zif miss gave LP an opening and Conrad dribbled a shot off Bowen's hands for a 2-1 LP lead. Michelle Sabick of Boise and Joslyn Dollar traded goals, then Boise's Alyssa Minegar caught Haisley a little unawares with a quick shot into the corner for a 3-3 tie.

After a wide LP shot, Boise's Natalie Swaner caught Haisley guessing for a 4-3 lead. The fifth and final LP shooter with the game on the line was Laura Mitchell. She calmly found the corner and sent the decision into a sudden death shootout.

Boise's first shot went wide.

It brought Carolina Stevens to the line. Besides knowing that she could win the championship with a good shot, Stevens had a little extra motivation. Her husband John Stevens of the Sun Valley Suns had offered a few unsolicited suggestions after Carolina shot extremely high on a shootout try against Boise Saturday.

This time, Jersey girl Carolina took her time, mustered her resolve and then showed John and everybody else what it feels like to win the championship. Her second goal of the weekend was the one that really counted. It was low and hard. And it was in the net.

Besides ace defender Lara Stone, other players logging time for Laurent Perrier were Lynn Chaldu, Langely McNeal, Jessie Kolkmann, Summer Chaldu, Erin Northrop and Kipp Mills.

NOTES—Laurent Perrier had finished second the last two years, losing to Logan 7-0 in 2004 and to Boise ABC 3-0 in 2003.....Conrad, Lynette Kerns, Mills and Stone were members of the Laurent Perrier squad that defeated Dura Mater of Utah 6-3 in the 2000 tournament finale. That championship team was led by Division 1 college player, Heather Selvitelle (6 goals) of James Madison University and included a future television actress, Jen Cortese........Boise/SV scorers on the weekend were Jody Zarkos, Kipp Mills, Lea Snyder and Gillian Crymes.....Laurent Perrier sponsor Jim Cimino provided the champagne and shared a post-game photo with the winning team....Check the Aug. 24 Express Local Life edition for more soccer tournament photos.

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