In front of the largest crowd in years at a Moriarty girls soccer game—with fans lining the entire east side of the field from goal line to goal line—the Lady Pintos’ season ended last Saturday in a 2-1 overtime loss at the hands of the visiting Robertson Lady Cardinals.
After 89 minutes of battling the ninth-seeded Lady Cardinals in the first round of the Class A-4A state playoffs, a free kick—following a questionable call by one of the officials—got past goalkeeper Sage Bond leaving the Lady Pintos heartbroken but hopeful for next year.
“It was close, very close, but that’s just the name of the game,” Moriarty’s head coach Val Luker said.
With the score knotted at 1-1 and a minute remaining in overtime, an airborne ball grazed off Moriarty’s Jean Shelly Massey. The official blew the whistle and called it a hand-ball, awarding Robertson a game-altering direct free kick from 20 yards out.
“The ref thought it was a hand ball,” Bond said after the game.
The high-arcing free kick sailed toward the goal, Bond went up for it with both hands, but it slipped through her fingertips and fell to the ground where Robertson’s Victoria Valdez kicked it in.
“I thought I had it but I kinda lost my footing, then it went behind me and she was able to tap it in,” Bond said. She had 13 saves.
Moriarty’s Ashley Strader echoed Bond’s observation on the call. “It hit Jean Shelly’s back, it hit right here,” Strader said tapping the back of her shoulder.
“And that cost us,” Luker added.
Some other calls in the game also proved to be costly for Moriarty.
In the first half, Strader was moving into a possible scoring position and was called for being offsides—a penalty when an attacking player gets ahead of the defenders between the ball and the opposing team’s goal.
“I was not offsides on that one,” Strader said.
Also in the first half, Massey launched a corner kick that teammate Rhiannon Moya tapped into the net for what appeared to be Moriarty’s first goal.
But one of the officials nullified the goal saying the ball had sailed behind the goal line before the wind brought it back onto the field.
The wind eventually proved to be an issue the entire game, carrying several shots beyond their mark as well as blowing tumbleweeds up and down the pitch. At one point Robertson’s coach yelled, “Can we please clear the field of all these tumbleweeds?”
In the final minutes of the first half, Valdez slipped a shot past Bond to give the Lady Cardinals a 1-0 lead. Moriarty regrouped during the break and came out strong in the second half.
The Lady Pintos relentlessly penetrated Robertson’s side of the field and took numerous shots that either sailed off frame or were stopped by Robertson’s goalkeeper, who had 16 saves.
“The wind was a little tough,” Strader said. “And their goalie was good, I’ll give it to her, she was really good.”
Then, in the 66th minute, Strader nailed a shot from 10 yards out to tie the score at 1-1. Immediately following the goal she and teammate Chloe Rector bear-hugged each other in a jubilant embrace.
“I was pumped, I totally screamed so loud, I was like, ‘ASHLEY!’” Rector said. “It was such a good moment.”
The Lady Pintos continued to attack but the score remained deadlocked through the end of regulation.
During overtime Moriarty had a chance to claim a possible victory with Strader, Moya and Rector taking shots, including one that hit the left upright and another that missed wide right by just a few inches.
“We were firing and firing but we just could not get the ball in the back of the net,” Strader said.
In the end the eighth-seeded Lady Pintos (10-10-1), who were making their first postseason appearance since 2009, gained valuable experience that will carry over to next season.
“It was good to come this far,” Strader said.
“And we’re just going to pick up the momentum,” added Luker. “I’m looking forward to next year.”
Ger has been writing and shooting photos of high school sports for The Independent for 15 years. His dedication to youth athletics goes beyond sports reporting. He is past president of East Mountain Little League and works as a baseball umpire. He lives in Edgewood with his family.