The Park Hill South senior forward’s golden goal in the 89th minute of the Class 4 District 15 championship game delivered a 2-1 win Thursday night at Park Hill District Soccer Complex. The Panthers fought back after Liberty equalized in the second half and turned its thoughts to reversing the result of two earlier meetings between the two teams.
In the ninth minute of the first overtime period, Park Hill South senior Carli Hanlon’s corner kick just missed the head of midfielder Anna Courtney, bounded through the box and found Jackson at the back post. Her headed shot went high and off the fingertips of Blue Jays goalkeeper Chiarra Franklin before rolling off the top and into the net.
Jackson’s goal set up a spirited group hug in front of the goal in the south end of the field, locking up Park Hill South’s first playoff appearance since 2012.
“I knew right when that ball was going over my head that Shay was going to get a head on it, and she hit it perfectly,” said Courtney, the opening goalscorer in the matchup and, like Jackson, a signee to play Division I soccer next season. “
Hanlon kept connecting on passes with Jackson until the combination finally produced the winning goal.
Overall, Franklin made nine saves, including a flurry of activity after Marissa Adams leveled the score at 1-1 for Liberty with a goal in the 53rd minute. Jackson, who hit the left post with a one-time shot off a drop pass from Meghan Jones moments before Adams’ tally, forced three of Franklin’s saves in the remainder of regulation as her shot total ballooned to double digits.
Liberty didn’t create as many shots but remained dangerous throughout the matchup of Suburban Conference Red Division rivals – the top two seeds in District 15. Park Hill South struggled to breakthrough despite posting wins of 6-3 and 4-0 against the Blue Jays during the regular season.
“Today that didn’t happen. Today they kept us in check pretty good,” Park Hill South coach Joe Toigo said.
Park Hill South did dominate in terms of shots and quality scoring chances.
A Hanlon free kick from about 35 yards out found Jackson’s head in the 18th minute, but Franklin punched it out for her first save, resulting in an ineffective corner. Five minutes later, a through ball from Hanlon sent Jackson free but her left-footed shot went straight at the keeper.
Courtney put the Panthers up 1-0 with 11 minutes left before halftime, ambling through an open spot in the midfield before firing a rocket from 29 yards out that pinged off the right post and all the way back across into the left netting.
“I knew I had the right space to just rip it, so I did,” Courtney said. “It hit right on that inside, and I saw a little bit of the net move. I knew it was going in.”
The lead held until Adams’ equalizer on a loose ball off of a corner recharged Liberty’s upset hopes.
However, the Panthers stayed level with Haley Mills making four saves and giving the offense time to find the winner and avoid the potential of penalty kicks.
Park Hill South earned another repeat matchup in the playoffs and will host Park Hill at their joint stadium in a sectional scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 26. The Trojans beat Staley 3-0 in the District 16 final to advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
Bella Catano scored twice in the first half, adding to the lead midfielder Sam Paulak built with a superb strike into the upper corner in the 14th minute.
The second for Catano came almost at the stroke of halftime in a key series of events. Park Hill sophomore defender Jenna Winebrenner cleared a ball off the Trojans’ line to avoid a goal from Staley with about 30 seconds left, and Catano converted at the other end.
Kelbey Emerson recorded the shutout, helping set up the third matchup in less than two weeks between the intra-district rivals.
In their final two games of the regular season, Park Hill scored a 2-0 victory in the first meeting, and Park Hill South came back with a 1-0 shutout two days later to force a split of the Red Division title. This will mark the first playoff game between the two in history.