Lewis Mills girls soccer gets past Bethel in OT, moves on to Class M semifinals
BURLINGTON - The Lewis Mills girls soccer team was really tested for the first time this season on Saturday night and it passed with flying colors.
Down by two goals early in the second half, the top-seeded Spartans stormed back for a 3-2 overtime victory over No. 24 Bethel in a Class M quarterfinal matchup at Nassahegan Field.
With the win the Spartans (18-0) advance to the Class M semifinals where they will face No. 20 East Catholic (12-6-1) on either Tuesday or Wednesday at a time and place to be determined.
"The heart my team showed tonight is what won the game," Lewis Mills coach Dennis Fowler said. "I give credit to the girls. All season we talked about there is going to come a time in our season where we are going to face some adversity, we don't get it in the BL. And here we go, we got some and we came together and handled it. That was a team win. Every player that stepped on that field contributed to a big come from behind win and not just one goal, but a two-goal deficit."
The deficit came courtesy of Bethel senior Alicia Alves, who scored the game's first goal 15 minutes into the game and then added her second just over one minute into the second half to make it 2-0.
The Spartans had the better of the run of play most of the night but took a while to turn their chances into goals. Mills sent a number of shots over the crossbar, into the post or just wide in the first half.
"I was frustrated because all year we finished," Fowler said. "We had chance after chance in the first half that we didn't finish. All we said at halftime is you have to keep going, it's going to come. We didn't make any adjustments and we just told them to keep going."
That's exactly what the Spartans did and they seized the momentum less than a minute after Alves' second tally.
Rachel Lord made a turning move in the box and fired a shot from close range off the left post, the rebound bounced up wight back to her and she headed it in to make it 2-1 just 56 seconds after Bethel had taken a two-goal lead.
"We really needed a lift at that moment and we got it from Rachel," Fowler said.
"I was pumped and I think that set the tone for the rest of the half," Lord said. "I was determined to score. We were talking at half and coach said who's going to score and I said I will, I got this and I shot and got another chance and put it in."
Lewis Mills got the equalizer with 19:53 to play on a goal by Morgan Baker. Alyssa Wrabel made a run up the right sideline and sent a cross to Baker who was alone in front and put it home to make it 2-2.
"We didn't put our heads down and we came together when we fell behind," Baker said. "We just kept shooting, shooting, shooting. In the first half we had so many opportunities and we stayed after it in the second half and it worked for us."
Neither team was able to generate the game winner in regulation but the Spartans didn't wait long in the overtime to take the lead.
Chloe Waldren made a run after winning a 50-50 ball in the midfield and pushed the ball down the left side before shooting it through to Ailene Berry in front of the goal. Berry beat Bethel goalie Sophia Corbo to put the Spartans up 39 seconds into the first of two 10-minute overtime periods.
"Chloe made a great run and crossed it and I got a foot on it to put it in," Berry said. "But we realized we had a lot of time left and we realized we had to defend. Thank god for our defense and midfield, they got it out every time."
Bethel pushed more and more players forward to try and tie the game but it wasn't to be and their run, that included two tournament wins to set up the quarterfinal showdown with Mills came to an end.
"We play in a pretty tough conference and they can hang with any team in the SWC that's for sure," Bethel coach Tim Luchsinger said. "Our girls gave all they had but in the end they finished their chances."
Lewis Mills is now back in the semifinals for the second time in three years and for the fourth time in the last seven seasons. The only time the Spartans have not at least made the quarterfinals in that span was last season when they had a first-round bye and then lost in the second round to No. 16 Weston, an SWC team like Bethel.
Now East Catholic is all that stands in the way of Lewis Mills making a third trip to the state finals and first since 2010.
"East Catholic is a big, powerful defensive team with a good goalie," Fowler said. "They ended the season very strong and are a CCC team that has been through some battles. But right now, I think our team is capable of playing with anybody."