By Matthew Snyder
Granted a penalty kick in the 12th minute of Saturday’s West Catholic Athletic League home match against Presentation, junior midfielder Lindsay Bettinger coolly slotted her shot in the net to give the St. Ignatius girls soccer team an early 1-0 lead.
But the goal galvanized Presentation, which is currently tied for second place with St. Francis in the WCAL standings, and the Panthers poured in three sensational individual goals to power a 3-1 comeback win and avoid an upset against the seventh-place Wildcats.
St. Ignatius (4-10-1, 1-7) lost 1-0 in heartbreaking fashion to Presentation (10-2-1, 5-1-1) in the teams’ first league meeting on Dec. 15, when the Panthers scored on a penalty kick in the game’s final five minutes.
Bettinger had not played in that game, but when the referee whistled for a St. Ignatius penalty kick on Saturday after Presentation midfielder Gabbie Sanfilippo bundled over SI junior forward Claire Tramontozzi in the 18-yard box, Wildcats head coach Carlos Escobar immediately signaled to Bettinger to take the spot kick.
As she readied herself to take the penalty, Bettinger said she saw Presentation goaltender Rachel Haaland leaning to her left side on the goal line.
“So I looked that way and then went to the other side [with my shot],” Bettinger said. “Once the [referee] blows the whistle, you kind of have to wait and have to let everything else go, because the fans and the other team can get in your head.”
Presentation’s bench had vigorously protested the penalty, and they immediately pressed for an equalizer after Bettinger’s goal.
The makeshift Wildcats defense, depleted by the absences of a couple starters (a total of six St. Ignatius starters missed Saturday’s game due to injury and travel over the extended holiday weekend) held firm for the next 25 minutes.
Then in the 37th minute, Presentation defender Emily MacDonell tied the game at 1-1 when she clipped a right-footed shot from the right edge of the penalty area that sailed over Wildcats goalkeeper Soleil Brisbane and into the top-left corner of the net.
The Panthers carried their momentum into the second half, and after several impressive collective offensive movements they seized the lead in the 56th minute with another showcasing of individual skill.
Presentation midfielder Taylor Locke, who caused the Wildcats defense problems all game, sent in a low crossing pass from the right-hand end line that found teammate Maggie von Massenhausen at the right edge of the 6-yard box.
Sensing a defender off her right shoulder, von Massenhausen executed an inch-perfect turn to free some space before she fired an unstoppable shot across into the netting.
Locke compounded that assist with her 11th goal of the season four minutes later. After a teammate ran across the back of the St. Ignatius defense, taking two Wildcats defenders along with her, Locke sped into the vacated area with a quick series of dribbles before she fired a shot that skipped into the left side of goal to cap the three-goal streak.
“It was definitely a harder second half for us,” said Bettinger, one of several Wildcats who played the entire game. “Not only did we not have a lot of subs, we had a different back line than normal, so that was definitely difficult. We were getting beat on the [wings] by Presentation’s outside midfielders, but I think if everyone was healthy, we could have easily tied or beaten them.”
Faced with a two-goal deficit, Escobar went for broke in the 66th minute when he moved Bettinger and freshman Kyra Pelton from midfield to help fill in a four-forward formation, but it did not result in a goal.
“We have the attitude that, no matter what, we always want to be in the game, so I want the girls to have that attitude,” Escobar said. “We’re going to try and press and try and see if we can get a goal here and there. I think that kind of attitude is something that we pride ourselves on — even though the chips are down, to not stop fighting. That’s what we want to focus on, is our youth and setting a good template for next year.”