Gabi Hollinger really didn't have time to think in the moment. The play was all reaction.
But the Hempfield senior's training showed at the right time. That and the words of Black Knights coach Jason Mackey.
“Mackey always says one touch. So we all kind of base off of that,” Hollinger said. “Get a foot on it, get a head on it, anything. Knock it in one touch.”
Hollinger did exactly that, putting home the game-winning goal with 3:07 left in the first overtime, sending Hempfield into the District Three Class 4A championship match with Tuesday's 2-1 win over Wilson.
The Black Knights (15-3-1) will face Cumberland Valley in Saturday's title match, slated for 5:30 p.m. at Hersheypark Stadium. The Eagles topped Ephrata, also by a 2-1 count in overtime, in Tuesday’s other semifinal.
Moments after re-entering the game, Hempfield's Abby Burdyn lined up for a corner kick. Her perfect effort found Jess Weinholdt, who touched the ball to Hollinger for the golden goal.
“Abby strikes a great corner,” Mackey said. “She and Gabi both delivered some great balls for us from the corner. Jess did a great job keeping it alive and Gabi finishing off the game.”
As the ball found the back of the cage, Hollinger had but one thought.
“I just wanted to run to the team. We do it for everyone,” she said. “You run into everyone's arms and celebrate that we are going to district (finals) and states. I’ve played with these girls since I was in U9 and it’s so special to finally get to this point and we deserve it."
Mackey said Tuesday was the perfect example of playoff soccer. Two evenly matched teams, both of which needed PKs to make it to the semifinals.
“Anytime you get to this point in the playoffs, everyone is good,” he said. “Going into overtime is just as common as ending in regulation. Both teams battled hard and it’s about those extra efforts and creating those extra opportunities and we were able to do that in overtime.”
It was Hollinger that opened the scoring when she tapped in a loose ball from a scrum past Bulldogs goalkeeper Alexis Solt a little more than 11 minutes into the game.
Thanks to some great defense each way, the score remained that way until 12:36 into the second half, when a Wilson cross kissed off the goalpost and spun right to Natalee Vicari, who tied the game.
Hempfield was a mere foot or so away from winning in regulation when a corner kick led to a clean shot that Bulldogs defender Katie Fry saved along the end line with only 1:45 to play in the second half.
Still, the Knights remained determined and carried play in overtime, earning three corner kicks during the nearly 12 minutes, including the one that ended the night.