All of the preparation and repetition is great when it comes to a team practicing penalty kicks. There’s only difference that can’t be duplicated: the real thing.
The Grapevine girls soccer program went through six agonizing rounds of penalty kicks against Wichita Falls this past Friday in Mineral Wells. The emotional highs, lows and stress came down to the seventh round.
Old High missed. Grapevine converted as sophomore forward Bri Gajewski beat Old High keeper Erin Smith with a shot that eluded Smith’s reach.
The Lady Mustangs won the area round meeting 7-6 on penalty kicks and advanced to the Class 5A Region I quarterfinal round Tuesday against Wichita Falls Rider in Mineral Wells. Grapevine won 4-1 and advances to the Region I tournament this weekend in Wichita Falls to face the winner of Lubbock Monterey and Abilene Cooper.
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“There is no substitute for the real pressure,” Grapevine head coach Steve McBride said. “We started working on penalty kicks during the second half of district play. We know what it’s like. We lost the biggest game of the year last year on this part of the game. They were looking to atone for what happened.”
In the 2016 5A state championship, Grapevine couldn’t hold a 2-0 lead against Frisco Centennial. The Lady Mustangs wound up losing on penalty kicks, 3-1.
As stressful as these situations are, that’s probably a good thing. Something either/or like this offers a glimpse as to what real life stressful situations will provide.
“You’re going to have to deal with some stress at some point and you’re going to be judged,” McBride said. “That adds to some degree. But you have to be comfortable with it and trust your habits. It is unnerving. There’s no other way to describe it when your fate is in the hands of one person. It’s a helpless feeling.”
As far as McBride is concerned, there is no advantage to taking the penalty kicks first or second. The disadvantage of going first is if your team misses, then you know the opponent understands it can take the lead with a conversion. The disadvantage of going second is if the team shooting first converts, then the pressure is on your team to keep pace.
Of course, Grapevine is looking to make a third consecutive appearance at the state tournament. The Lady Mustangs fell in the semifinals in 2015.
This is pretty much a postseason reunion tour for the Lady Mustangs. Last year, they faced Rider in the Region I championship round and won on a late goal, 1-0. This year, this meeting is two rounds earlier because of the recent UIL realignment which changed up relationships and when teams would face each other in the postseason.
Winning a game on penalty kicks is pretty unconventional. But the problem is that a game can’t keep going and going. There has to be a conclusion.
“I want the game to be decided in the natural circumstances on the field,” McBride said. “Penalty kicks is not a great way to win or lose. But you have to look at what’s best for the kids.”