The top two Class A girls soccer teams in the southeastern corner of the state met on Monday night.
It was a matchup — Winona Cotter at Lourdes — that had been craved all they back to last season. Absence makes the heart grow even fonder for these battles when an entire calendar year goes by without one happening.
COVID-19 took away the chance for Cotter and Lourdes to meet in 2020.
So, Monday night at Rochester Regional Sports Stadium was special.
It turned out that the Eagles and Ramblers made it last and last. Finally, with 58 seconds left in the second of two overtimes, there was a winner. Lourdes’ Amelia Gossman’s corner kick landed perfectly on Lourdes’ Lindsey Birch’s forehead, then Birch plunged the ball forward off of her head, past Cotter goalie Tess Mullen and into the net.
It provided the Eagles with an upset win, 2-1, against their biggest rival, Cotter. Lourdes entered as the state’s No. 8-ranked Class A team, while Cotter was fifth.
It gave Cotter its first loss of the season (4-1), while Lourdes also moved to 4-1.
“We’ve been looking forward to this matchup for a while,” said Birch, a star defender who has scored three goals this season despite playing sweeper, all of them headers on corner kicks from Gossman. “We were just really excited to play Cotter. We all played together tonight, we were organized and all had the same goal of winning and playing with tons of energy.”
That Lourdes allowed the Ramblers just a single goal felt like a win all by itself to the Eagles. Cotter entered the night averaging 10 goals per game and hadn’t scored fewer than eight times in any contest prior to Monday.
It was Alyssa Williams who got Cotter’s lone goal, the junior line-driving a shot from 30 yards out and just over the head of Lourdes goalie Addison Lange. That happened with 6:20 left in the first half and tied the score at 1-all.
Lourdes had scored at the 21:39 mark of the first half on a left-footed kick from 10 yards out by Anna Baudhuin as she finished off what had been a scrum in front of the Cotter goal.
Other than that, that was it for scoring until Gossman and Birch worked their last-breath magic.
And that was all good with Eagles long-time coach Sarah Groven. She knew for her team to win, it would come down to grit and defense. Turns out her players gave her plenty of both.
“We had to win the 50-50 balls tonight; we had to be the first one to the ball, and I thought we did that,” Groven said. “We beat (Cotter) to those quite often and that made a big difference for us. This gives us a lot of confidence, too, because Cotter had come into the game like gangbusters. The fact that we let only one ball into (its net) says something about our team and how they are coming together.”
As for Gossman and Birch, they come together more than ever on those corner-kick chances. Gossman is alway the kicker and Birch always the one — at 5-feet-9 and with lots of upper-body strength — with the best chance to convert them.
When it comes time to kick them, Gossman always has the same plan.
“Just before I kicked, as I went to the ball, I said to myself, ‘I need to get this one. I need to go straight for Lindsey’s head’ ” Gossman said.
She did, and it was a winner.
Lourdes 2, Cotter 1, OT
Cotter 1 0 0 0 — 1
Lourdes 1 0 0 1 — 2
Cotter: Alyssa Williams 1 goal. Goalie: Tess Mullen 9 saves.
Lourdes: Ellie Baudhuin 1 goal; Lindsey Birch 1 goal; Amelia Gossman 1 assist: Goalie: Addison Lange 11 saves.
• Cotter is 4-0; has scored 41 goals; avg. 10.3 goals per game; has given up 2 goals all year.
• Lourdes is 3-1, one loss to K-M; averaging 3.25 goals per game; allowing 1 goal per game.
lost 3-1 to K-M on Sept. 2.