NAPAVINE — Elle Personius forced overtime with a penalty kick in the 78th minute, but Makensee Taliaferro scored with 1:17 remaining in the sudden death period to avoid the shocking first-round upset. Napavine’s 3-2 victory eliminated Ilwaco from the District playoffs.

With Ilwaco trailing 2-1 and under eight minutes remaining, star Ilwaco defender Sunny Kemmer advanced the ball aggressively past midfield to create a scoring chance. The ball came to Justyce Patana, who faked out one defender, ran past another, and passed to Paige Frank near the goal. Frank’s shot eluded the goalie but just missed off the right cross-bar.

Minutes later, after Napavine cleared it to midfield, Melissa Merino-Ortiz drew a penalty kick battling for the ball. Elle Personius launched the kick toward the goal and it went off a defender’s elbow for a handball – another penalty, from closer range.

Kicking from inside the goal box, with only the goalie to stop her, Personius took several deep breaths, stretched her arms, and prepared for the kick with the season hanging in the balance. Personius nailed it to the top of the net over the goalie’s head for the 2-2 tie with 2:32 plus extra time remaining.

In overtime Ilwaco burst downfield and Personius took a quick shot but missed high 17 seconds into the five-minute period. At the other end Merino-Ortiz stopped a move by Taliaferro, cutting off her angle. But Napavine kept the ball near the Ilwaco goal, eventually setting up Taliaferro on the right side of the net, inches away as goalie Faith Richardson and some defenders tried desperately to hold her off. Taliaferro got the ball into the side of the net for the win.

Napavine, the fifth seed with a 5-3 regular season record in league play, took a 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes against the Lady Fishermen, who were 4-11 overall in the regular year.

Chloe Stewart broke away at midfield and scored from close range 4:25 into the game, and the Tigers added a goal on a throw-in from the corner in the tenth minute.

But the game gradually settled into a competitive contest, as Ilwaco played strong defense and moved the ball downfield.

Ilwaco focused on stopping Taliaferro, who had a big performance in the teams’ regular season meeting.

“Having played each other before, we had an idea of what we needed to do,” Ilwaco coach Andrew Goodwin said. “We kept Sarah (Frank) on (Taliaferro), to keep her from getting passes.

Richardson stopped a hard shot in the 22nd minute after a long pass set up a good look for the Tigers. Richardson stopped a straight-on shot late in the halff to keep it 2-0.

Early in the second half, Kemmer stopped a hard shot set up by a corner kick.

Patana then made a run the other way, drew the defense, tripped over defenders but controlled the ball and passed to Personius for the goal.

“I tripped, and they were kind of hesitating, and I passed it to Elle,” Patana said. “I kind of used the fact that I tripped as an advantage, to hold them behind me.”

In the 61st minute, Napavine created another breakaway chance with a long pass, but Kemmer cut down the middle to block the shot attempt.

Richardson slid over to make another big stop in the 72nd minute, keeping it a one-score game as Ilwaco went on offense in the final minutes.

The Fishermen, who lost 4-1 to Napavine earlier in the year and did not beat a team with a winning record this season, made it a much more intense contest than the home fans were likely expecting.

Incremental improvements throughout the course of the season added up for the second-year program in its first year of varsity play.

“We’ve really improved over the course of the season, and it all kind of clicked together tonight,” Goodwin said.

Aaron Mead is a sports writer for the Chinook Observer. Contact him at 360-642-8181 or aaroncmead@gmail.com.

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