A season teeming with promise and hope came down to five penalty kicks for the state's top-ranked boys soccer squad Thursday afternoon.
The Westminster Wildcats didn't need all five. In fact, it took only three and an unconventional kick save among four Westminster seniors to grab a ticket to the state semifinals.
"Those guys are experienced players, seniors, captains," Westminster coach Mike Freace said. "They battled really well and played with a ton of heart."
Anthony Lehn and Julian Allgeier scored to go up quickly during penalty kicks, and Philip Mullins offered the final strike, capping a shootout victory and a 3-2 win over Central Fellowship Christian in the GISA Class AAA quarterfinals.
"The game was exciting to begin with, but it ended twice as exciting," said Mullins, who scored the team's first goal of the night.
But it was Beckett Johnson's first save in the shootout that set the tone. After picking the incorrect side, the Wildcats goalkeeper extended his right foot behind him to stop the straight-on shot.
"There's not much to say about that one," said Johnson, who arrived just 20 minutes before kickoff, due to a bad case of pink eye. "I just stuck my foot out there, and luckily I knocked it away."
In regulation, all four goals were scored in the first half, with three coming in a two-minute span.
After Allgeier fed Mullins on the night's first tally 10 minutes in, Central Fellowship evened things up 30 seconds later.
Allgeier, Westminster's new single-season scoring record holder, responded one minute later with a wicked, bending free kick from 25 yards out.
Central Fellowship finished off the scoring midway through the first, as Michael Nadeau converted on a ball that trickled through the Wildcats' defense.
Defensive adjustments from both coaches at halftime, said Freace, were the main reason the second half and two 10-minute overtimes took on a more controlled, cautious feel.
Reach Justin Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.