Girls Soccer

Pickerington North comes up just short in OT

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BELLBROOK, Ohio — The late-game magic that sent Pickerington North to a Division I state semifinal was conjured again last night in Miami Valley South Stadium.

This time, though, it materialized for Mason, which got an overtime goal from senior forward Jami Pfeifer and sent the Comets to the championship game with a 1-0 victory.

“We came out pretty strong in overtime the last game,” Pickerington North coach Greg VanKannel said. “This one, we didn’t. We came out flat, and you can’t do that. And when you get to this level, you just have to get a little lucky.”

Pickerington North (19-1-2) advanced to its second state semifinal in three seasons with 1-0 wins over Dublin Coffman in a regional semifinal and Dublin Jerome in a regional final last week. Ashlynn Jones scored the winners in both games, striking with 1:45 remaining against Coffman and in overtime against Jerome. Both opponents were ranked in the final state poll.

“Any time you beat two Dublins in three days, that’s a good week,” VanKannel said.

But Jones, a Memphis recruit, had few chances against Mason (20-1-1).

“You have to keep calm and stick with her,” Mason defender Olivia Gaus said. “She’s the fastest girl we’ve played, and she’s very strong.”

A booming, 15-yard shot by Jones was blocked by defender Carolyn Springsteen with 32:30 remaining in the second half.

Mason midfielder Madison Melnick had the first shot on goal of the game, but a quick reaction save by Panthers goalkeeper Heather Laeufer kept it scoreless with 13:28 remaining in the second half.

Jones had another opportunity with 11:30 remaining but couldn’t put a shot on Rachel Weigman’s cross at the goal mouth.

“We did fine,” VanKannel said. “We just didn’t convert our chances that we had.”

Mason had outscored its previous opponents 73-10 but found little room to maneuver in the attacking third. It twice forced Laeufer off her line, but the Central Michigan-bound keeper broke up a pair of breakaways with two well-timed runs.

But Laeufer had no chance to stop Pfeifer’s winner, a shot from 15 yards that sailed inside the near post.

“I wasn’t sure where it was going,” Pfeifer said. “I was in the moment, and it’s one of those things where you don’t know how it happens, it just happens.”

The goal — Pfeifer’s 18th — was only the fourth allowed by Laeufer this season. It came in the second minute of overtime.

Mason came tantalizingly close to scoring seconds after the opening kick in overtime when Jill Vetere sent a shot wide left that appeared to strike the outstretched hand of a Pickerington North defender.

No handball was called, but it mattered little. Pfeifer scored moments later.

“They had a lot of talent, a lot of speed,” VanKannel said. “And they were very aggressive.”

Pickerington North had shut out 10 of its past 12 opponents and advanced to the state tournament for the fourth time since 2007. The Panthers reached the championship game in 2010.

Mason, in its first state tournament, will play Perrysburg (22-0) in Crew Stadium on Friday.

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