SHREVE TWP. — Cloverleaf’s Anna Winnicki has been begging her coach all season to play up in certain situations.
After Monday night, Guillermo Porras may be shuffling the lineup a little.
The sophomore defender netted the game-winning goal, the first of her varsity career, to help the Colts take down Triway in a Brunswick Division II Sectional opener.
“She’s always been wanting to push up,” first-year coach Porras said. “She wants to go her first goal and she’s always asking if she can push up on set plays. She’s a go-getter and tonight she really went after it and she got it.”
After helping the Colts backline withstand a couple key runs from the Titans midway through the second half, knocking balls away with fellow defender Shannon Mohney and goalkeeper Katelyn Young, Winnicki got her chance.
On a restart from the left corner of the box, forward Lauren Gokey blasted a shot to the middle that was deflected by Triway goalie Mariah Cruise (7 saves).
Instead of the ball being cleared, it bounced to the backside of the box. Winnicki was there with 17:05 left in regulation to tap it in not only her first high school goal, but help the Colts (6-11) record their first postseason victory since 2010.
It also was enough to overshadow the sophomore’s first career yellow card minutes earlier.
“It was awesome, honestly. There’s not much more I can say,” she said. “Lauren kicked it and it bounced off the goalie and I was able to just tap it in with my left foot. I was just going in there for a shot.
“I never go in with a thought. I just go in there trying my hardest to see if I can get one off of it. I was just like, ‘Kick it. Just go for it. Even if you miss, it was close.’ It was just one of those things.”
The score was only a matter of time, as the Colts had been knocking on the door for most of the night, with shot attempts from Gokey, Zana Ross and Caryn Scandlon. Cloverleaf outshot the host Titans (7-7-3) 8-4 on goal and 11-7 overall. Gokey also drew a penalty kick with 3:35 left, but had her try get saved by the outstretched hands of Cruise.
Combine that with solid defensive play that Winnicki also had something to do with and it was a total team effort.
“We all worked together and everybody pitched in,” Winnicki said. “Even after we got down (in their end) and some of the calls were not going our way, we just kept it clean and kept our game going.”
Young finished with four saves, but her biggest play came in the closing minutes of the first half when she came off her line to stop a shot attempt, only to have to come back and use a nifty slide tackle to thwart Abby Daley from getting to the goal.
“The defense held their own and a lot of credit has to go to Kaitlyn, because she’s one of our main players back their behind Zana Ross,” Porras said. “I think that sometimes we don’t give them enough credit.
“We told the girls that if you want to leave a legacy on this team right here, you really have to come out here and play the hardest you can, 100 percent. They gave me more.”
Now Cloverleaf will be doing something it hasn’t done in three seasons — preparing for another tournament game Thursday night at Coventry.
“We got to this point because they have played extremely hard,” Porras said. “They’re backing each other up. The seniors, man, they’ve really stepped it up and said, ‘This is our time and we need to make it last.’ And they’re making it last.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.