LITHIA — George Jenkins sophomore defender Katherine Stokes hadn’t seen one minute of action during the season, the result of suffering a torn ACL in her right knee during the summer.
With one swing of her damaged appendage, however, Stokes provided the Eagles with perhaps the greatest contribution of the season.
After playing 100 minutes of scoreless soccer in a Class 5A region semifinal against Newsome, George Jenkins held a 2-1 advantage in penalty kicks entering the fifth and final round. The fate of the Eagles’ season riding on her heavily-braced right knee, Stokes calmly lifted a shot past goalkeeper Madison Rowe to send George Jenkins to a 1-0 (3-1 PKs) victory over the Wolves and into the school’s seventh straight region final.
“I just feel really confident in my PKs, so I wasn’t really hesitating,” said Stokes, who was recently cleared to run but won’t be able to play fully for at least two more weeks. “I knew where I wanted to go. It wasn’t that hard for me.”
Newsome (19-1) had chances aplenty to score in regulation but kept missing the target. Alex Zilberfarb touched a slow roller toward goal that was cleared off the line by an Eagles’ defender in the 11th minute. Zilberfarb split two defenders and tracked down a midfield lob pass from Lindsey Eaton in the 50th minute for a one-on-one chance against Eagles goalie Haleigh Mercer (five saves) but missed wide.
With a little more than 10 minutes remaining, Eaton sent an accurate shot toward goal that was blocked away by defender Courtney McElroy after Mercer had been pulled off her line.
“I think we should have wrapped it up in the first half,” Newsome coach Kelly Townsend said. “But when you can’t score, you can’t get it in, you can’t win.”
In penalties, George Jenkins (9-5-4) took an early lead on Lauren Greene’s successful conversion in the opening round. Newsome missed its first three penalty shots and went behind 2-0 when Lyndi Elms beat Rowe in Round 4. Karli Gutsche kept Newsome alive by burying her attempt, but Stokes’ heroics kept the Wolves from defeating the Eagles for the third time this season.
“My kids stepped up and played incredibly well,” Townsend said. “…It just didn’t go our way.”