As Danielle Aparicio’s shootout kick smacked off the hand of the Abilene Wylie goal keeper, everything at Lem Brock Field seemed to freeze for just a moment.
Everything, that is, except the ball, which fell behind the keeper and one-hopped into the back of the net, giving Stephenville (20-4-2) a 3-2 shootout victory and a share of the District 7-4A title - the first league championship in the nine-year history of the program.
“I actually thought it wasn’t going to go in. I thought it was going to bounce over,” said Aparicio of her thoughts as she watched her kick. “When it went in, I didn’t know what to think. It just feels great (to win the co-championship), especially since it’s my senior year and because it’s (Head) Coach (Casey) Weil’s first title as a coach.”
After a 1-1 tie in regulation, Wylie’s first shootout kick missed wide left and Kayla Greggory followed with a Stephenville goal for a 1-0 advantage.
Wylie scored on its next kick, and Honeybee Mikah Smith was stuffed by the Bulldog keeper to maintain a 1-1 tie.
Stephenville keeper Hillari Chambers answerd the call by blocking her counterpart - the Wylie keeper - on the next attempt, but Melanie Tucker missed wide left for Stephenville and the shootout was still tied.
Wylie took a 2-1 lead before Mariah Cortez snuck one in to tie the score again.
Wylie missed wide right on its final attempt before Aparicio pulled off her heroics.
“All I could think was, Get in!” Weil said of his thoughts as he watched Aparacio’s kick get deflected and bounce toward the net. “This just means so much to our seniors because they’ve worked hard for years and now they get to see all that hard work pay off, and it’s big for our younger players because this raises the bar and gives us something to shoot for next year and in future years.”
Wylie took a 1-0 lead just 34 seconds into the contest, but sophomore Caitlin Cline tied the score with the only other regulation goal just before the 18-minute mark of the opening half.
A second Wylie goal was negated due to an offsides violation with 6:15 to play in the half, and the Bulldogs couldn’t capitalize despite plenty of pressure in the game’s final five minutes.
Stephenville also missed out on some second-half opportunities offensively, as Greggory missed high with 34:57 to play, Cortez had a good look but couldn’t get a solid foot on the ball with 28:40 remaining and a header by Cline was stopped by the Wylie keeper after she was setup by a strong Madison Goodwin free kick at the 8-minute mark.
With the tiebreakers favoring Wylie, Stephenville is still the second seed out of District 7-4A. The Honeybees, like the Yellow Jackets, will play Borger in the area round of the state playoffs. Wichita Falls is the likely sight of those match-ups according to both Weil and boys coach Ramsay Wright, but a date and time have yet to be determined.