SYRACUSE — There may be lonelier places on planet Earth than standing as the goal keeper in front of a set of soccer pipes during a penalty kick shootout, but probably not many.
But Syracuse junior keeper Taiyah Lambert’s decisive strategy propelled the Titans to a 3-0 shootout victory after battling Layton to a thrilling 4-4 comeback tie after extra time Thursday.
Caroline Stringfellow, who sent the game into extra time late, was first up for the Titans in the shootout and she slipped one under the crossbar for a successful try. Then it was Lambert’s turn in front of the net.
Lambert dived to her right and blocked the kick away from the goal — 1-0 Titans after one round.
Sarah Wynn found the left corner for Syracuse and Lambert again guessed right, flicking the ball out of harms way and the Titans led 2-0 following round two.
Layton goalie Rilee Godfrey blocked Syracuse’s next shot.
Lambert, up for the third time in net, again chose the right when the choice was placed before her, as the hymn says, and it worked out for the Titans. She solidly stopped Layton’s third shot.
Syracuse sophomore Abby Schofield then bounced one off the top right corner and into the net to put her team up 3-0 in the shootout. The Titans didn’t need the final two kicks to secure the win.
“I always look at their first glance, the way they line up, and then I just pick a side and not change my mind where I’m going,” Lambert said. “I was getting nervous but ... there’s more pressure on the person taking (the kick), so I can relax. It was so much fun, I loved it.”
It looked like a rout early as Layton (8-2, 7-1 Region 1) took a 3-0 lead 25 minutes into the game.
Erin Bailey scored on an assist from Brooklyn Pritchett, then Pritchett got one of her own in the 24th minute for a 2-0 Layton lead.
Just 34 seconds later, Kaitlyn Richins tallied off a Bailey assist and the Lancers were riding high, 3-0.
“We kind of got complacent and offensively they are strong. We knew that,” Layton coach Tara Ferrin said. “We allowed them to be first to the ball, which meant we had to play defense.”
That lapse in intensity allowed the Titans (7-4, 5-3) to roar back with three straight goals in a six-minute span.
Wynn broke the ice in the 30th minute and only 30 seconds later, Schofield made it 3-2 at the 10:25 mark.
Schofield tied it 3-3 in the 35th minute and the Titans had clawed all the way back to even.
But Bailey stopped the bleeding with 1:06 left in the half with her second score and Layton led 4-3 at the break.
With all the scoring in the first half, the second half turned on defense before Stringfellow tied the game at 4-4 in the 67th minute, sending the game into the extra time.
“In the middle, we weren’t organized and the same girl kept cutting through every time,” Lambert said. “So at the half we talked about covering her right there and I learned from my mistakes, and we were able to fix it the rest of the game.”
Syracuse coach Taylor Allen was thrilled with his defense in the second half, noting “we pitched a 60-minute shutout in the second half and overtimes, you can’t ask much more than that.
“Taiyah had a hell of a game, she played amazing,” he said. “I can’t be more proud of her. I know they had four goals, but she kept us in it. I’ll ride that keeper to a state tournament any time.”