Orono girls' soccer coach Erin Murray was already preparing for a possible shootout. But her star freshman, Nora Chouanard, knew there was time left on the clock and she didn't want things to go on much longer.
With time running down in overtime, Murray paused and trained her attention on the field, knowing Chouanard's reputation as a goal-scorer.
Her timing could scarcely have been better. With 56 seconds left in overtime, Chouanard cut across the box, took a pass from teammate Gabby Hyrkas and slid a low shot past Holy Angels goalkeeper Rachel Kawiecki, giving the Spartans a 2-1 victory in the Class 1A state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"I think it was my favorite big goal I've scored," said Chouanard, who has scored plenty of goals over her high school and club soccer careers. "It was amazing."
The specter of a shootout of penalty kicks was looming, but Chouanard made certain that didn't happen.
"I saw that we had a little over a minute left and I said to myself, 'I don't want to go into PKs [penalty kicks],' " Chouanard said. "PKs are scary. I wanted to win right then."
Chouanard's heroics had even Murray, in her 15th season as the Spartans' coach, fired up.
"Usually I'm pretty composed when we win big games, but I think I was in a full-out sprint after that," she said. "I was pretty excited."
Barely a minute into the second half, Holy Angels took a 1-0 lead on a 20-yard left-rocket by junior Mia Van der Heide. It appeared that goal might stand until Chouanard tied it up with a left-footed shot at 67:11.
The victory sends Orono to the 1A championship game Thursday for the third consecutive year against Mahtomedi, which won the previous two meetings.
"I feel like we'll have a lot of fire for the game," Murray said. "I think the girls wanted to see Mahtomedi in the championship game."
Mahtomedi 3, Blake 0: A one-goal deficit? Blake could deal with that. But three goals?
Mahtomedi turned a one-goal lead into a three-goal mountain by scoring two goals in a 50-second span late in the first half. Then it played shutdown defense the rest of the way.
The victory sustains the Zephyrs' quest for a third consecutive state championship. They defeated Orono in the championship game in each of the past two seasons.
Mahtomedi scored early when Lauren Heinsch gathered in a breakout pass at midfield, made a long run up the right side, cut toward the goal and slipped in a left-footed shot from 10 yards away at 3:31 of the first half.
"I wasn't worried then," Blake coach Kelsey Hans said. "It's a little more difficult when it goes from 1-0 to 3-0. That takes the spirits down a little."
Off a Mahtomedi corner kick in the 39th minute, the ball bounced around in front of the net until Zephyrs senior Anna Wagner, with her back to the Blake goal, alertly used her heel to tap the ball in.
"That was exciting," Wagner said. "I just wanted to get something on it and into the goal."
Less than a minute later, Sexson got deep in the Blake zone, corralled a pass at her feet and knocked it home, for a 3-0 Zephyrs lead at halftime.