EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Mainland Regional girls soccer players might want to start calling their keeper Lila "Stonewall" Schoen, because the sophomore stood up to the challenge against rival Ocean City on Wednesday at Egg Harbor Township High School, not letting anything past her through 100 minutes and three rounds of a shootout.
Mainland and Ocean City — bitter rivals in everything from soccer to checkers — duked it out through 80 minutes of regulation and two "Golden Goal" overtime periods and came up with all zeroes on the scoreboard, sending the inaugural Cape-Atlantic League Tournament championship game into a shootout. Schoen made a save on the first shot she faced and the Red Raiders misfired on two other chances, sending Julianna D'Onofrio to the penalty stripe in the fourth round of the shootout with a chance to win it. She did just that, calmly depositing a shot into the corner to give Mainland a 3-0 shootout victory.
"I was really nervous. I heard the crowd, but overall I heard my teammates behind me cheering me on, and my coaches, and I knew that when I put it away it was them through me," D'Onofrio said. "I was very nervous stepping up, but I knew if I missed it my goalie and my other teammates would have my back and they would lift me up and make up for my mistake."
Meghan Pellegrino scored to start the shootout and Kailyn Gallagher added a tally in the third round, setting up D'Onofrio's opportunity to win it in the fourth round following the save by Schoen and two high shots from the Red Raiders.
Prior to the shootout, the Mustangs let Schoen — who has seen more time with a recent injury to Madison Dougherty, Mainland's other keeper — know that however the shootout ended, she shouldn't put too much pressure on herself. Easier said than done for a keeper heading into a shootout with a championship on the line.
"We went up to her and we told her that PKs don't prove who the better team is and that whatever happens, happens," said D'Onofrio, a junior defender. "She really took a big step for us after our first keeper was hurt during the middle of the season. We told her that whatever happens, happens, and that we were going to be there for her no matter what."
"Ocean City is a really good team and we're honored to play against them. We played our hearts out and it's special to us. Lila played a great game, so it's memorable," added senior Mary McLaughlin. "I didn't need to (say anything to her) because I knew she got it. I was just like, 'Lila, let's go,' and gave her a high-five. I knew she'd be able to pull it out, I have full confidence in her."
"I knew that's how we practice, I had to bring it out there. I knew my team had my back no matter what," said Schoen, whose two older sisters, Lexi and Georgia, both were accomplished athletes at Mainland. "I watched their feet and just hoped for the best. It feels so good, and to have my team all run out to me just felt really good, and we just have to keep going from here."
Mainland had a shot by Camryn Dirkes ring off the crossbar in the first half, but other than that neither Schoen nor Ocean City keeper Tanis McDonnell — filling in for the injured Abbey Fenton — faced any real danger throughout, and that's a credit to each team's smothering defensive units. This was the third meeting of the season between top-seeded Mainland (13-2-1) and No. 3 Ocean City (12-4-2), and in nearly 280 minutes of soccer only two goals have been scored.
"It was awesome because the first two times it got closer and closer. The first time we beat them and the second time it went into double overtime, and this time it went to PKs," D'Onofrio said. "Each time it got closer and closer, but I think that because we came out on top the third time it's awesome and we proved ourselves, and that Mainland soccer is taking the next step. We lost a lot of seniors (from last year) and (this year's seniors) have really stepped up this year. I look up to them, they're my best friends, and I did it for them because they deserve it."
"They played amazing defense. They're a great team and we're so lucky we got to play against a good opponent three times," McLaughlin said. "We came out victorious and we're very proud of that. It's amazing."
Contact Dave O'Sullivan: sully @acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays