Graci Coleman knocks away a Willard shot during overtime penalty kicks. Coleman’s save delivered a win on Senior Night, 1-1 (5-3).

Saved by Graci: Coleman Secures Senior Night Win

Senior Graci Coleman knocked aside a shot during overtime penalty kicks, and all five Republic shooters connected on their attempts to help the Lady Tigers edge Willard 1-1 (5-3) on Senior Night in Republic Tuesday. Coleman’s save and the eventual game-winning shot by Cadence Lugar sparked a celebration to cap the evening dedicated to honoring Republic’s senior class.

“This group of seniors is a great group because they are team players. They just want the team to win, so whatever they need to do to be able to put us in a better position to win, they’re willing to do that,” coach Kevin Hauck said. “I just love them. They have great attitudes and they’re a lot of fun to be around.”

The overtime celebration wouldn’t have been possible if not for a second-half goal by Cameron Burton, her first of the year. She scored off a rebound with 16:25 remaining in regulation to tie the score after Madison Foley had put Willard ahead with a first-half goal.

“I got the ball crossed to me and I got a touch on it, and it went right (to) the goal,” Burton said. “The goalie blocked it and hit it off her knees, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, now’s my chance.’ And I just kicked it right into the goal. It was an incredible feeling. I don’t even know how to explain it.”

Burton’s goal lit a fire under Republic, which controlled the game most of the rest of the way, pushing the ball upfield and getting several shots, but failing to score. That inability to score has been a frustration for Republic, but when two overtime periods ended without another goal, it was Coleman’s time to shine.

soccer seniors
Before the game, Republic honored seniors Emma Jaquess, Kathryn Flippin, Yelayna Jakes, Graci Coleman, Ashlyn Leonard, Erin Brown, and Alexis Collins-Irvin. (Photo by Steve Rackley)

“I just try to keep myself calm. That’s probably what’s helped me out the best,” she said of her attitude during the penalty kicks.

After the teams traded two goals each to start, Coleman guessed right on Willard’s third attempt. She got both hands on the ball and punched it away.

“I try to watch (the shooter’s) eyes. We went over it in practice. I try to use what I learned in practice … and that’s one of the things we worked on,” she said.

Republic finished out its penalty kicks without a miss, giving Coleman and the rest of the seniors a win on their night. Burton was glad to help them celebrate with a victory, too.

“I love the seniors,” she said. “They really make the team the team. They know a lot. They’ve experienced the most, because they’ve been here longer than all of us, and they really know what to help us with, and they’re what makes us a team.”

Republic improves to 5-11, and Willard falls to 10-4. The Lady Tigers will host Joplin Wednesday night.

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