It wasn’t a win. But in a lot of ways it felt like it for the Wapakoneta Redskins.
Wapak held off a furious assault from first-place Shawnee to force a 1-1 tie in a varsity girls soccer match Tuesday at Ryan Field and placed the first blemish on the Indians’ previously perfect Western Buckeye League record.
“Our kids played extremely hard and they believed they could win the game,” Wapak coach Ross Kantner said. “When you play the first-place team in the league and come away with a tie, there is that sense of, yeah, that was good, but we really believed we could win the game. So there is that disappointment.”
On Seniors Night, the Redskins’ determination was typified by a gritty performance by senior Mallory McDevitt, who separated her shoulder in Wapak’s last game.
McDevitt played through the pain, tumbling to the pitch on several occasions and playing much of the second half with her arm at her side, immobile.
Senior goalkeeper Ashley Knippen withstood a relentless Shawnee attack.
Officially the Indians took 14 shots on goal and Knippen was credited with nine saves.
But it seemed the ball spent as much time in Knippen’s hands as it did on the turf.
The lone blemish on a brilliant performance by Knippen came on a Shawnee corner kick just 1:40 into the match. Indians’ junior Kaitlyn O’Connor bent it from the left corner toward the top of the goal. The ball slipped through Knippen’s hands and into the net.
“That’s going to happen once in a 100 shots,” Kantner said.
Said Knippen, “My defense stepped up for me. I got my head down after that one but pulled through. ... It was a good shot. I should have had it.
Rather than fold, Wapak rallied.
Sophomore Sara Warner dribbled down the left side and beat two defenders before punching the ball past goalkeeper Abby Waddle for the equalizer at the 25:11 mark of the first half.
“Sara Warner is really starting to mature as an offensive player,” Kantner said. “It was good to see her score.”
Wapak took just five shots on goal in the match. The Redskins had a couple opportunities in the second half but could not convert.
With almost 18 minutes left McDevitt and freshman Jessica Fisher had a 2-on-1 with Waddle. McDevitt’s shot hit the left post and caromed toward Fisher as Waddle dove to her right. But Waddle recovered in time to grab Fisher’s rebound shot just short of the goal line.
Then, on a corner kick with 3:30 to play, the Shawnee defense headed the ball right out to McDevitt. McDevitt got a shot off but it was just wide-left.
“I don’t think we’ll ever be known as a great offensive team,” Kantner said. “We just don’t seem to have that knack for putting it into the back of the net.”
The Redskins defense had its hands full in the closing minutes. On one possession with 6:30 to play, Shawnee took three cracks at the goal. But Wapak repelled each one and cleared the ball.
“We were looking for them to be fast and handle the ball well,” McDevitt said. “I guess out biggest concern was that no one got their head down and kept going no matter what happened.”
Shawnee’s assault continued down to the final seconds. Senior Lauren Davis fired a shot from just inside the 18 with just two seconds left on the clock. But Knippen dove to her right and snagged the ball just short of the line for the tie-clinching save.
“She (Knippen) had her eyes on it,” Kantner said. “I was pretty confident. I didn’t have any heart palpitations.”
Wapak is now 4-6-3 overall and 1-3-3 in league play. Shawnee fell to 11-2-1 overall and 6-0-1.
St. Marys (5-0-2) and Celina (4-0-2) are the only other unbeatens in the league.