Senior Katie Sullivan seals OT win with chip shot against Rifle, 3-2 |

Senior Katie Sullivan seals OT win with chip shot against Rifle, 3-2

Summit vs. Rifle

Score 1st 2nd 1OT Final

Summit 1 1 1 3

Rifle 2 0 0 2

FRISCO — Now that’s the way to end a season.

On a gorgeous Thursday afternoon at home — Senior Night, the final game of the spring — the Summit girl’s soccer team sent their soon-to-be graduates off in style with a dominant performance against Rifle. The game nearly slipped away, but, after a full 80 and 9:30 of overtime, a small core of seniors and several promising underclassmen earned an ego boost and a win, 3-2 in the first overtime.

The Lady Tigers more-or-less controlled possession and momentum from start to finish, all the way until the final 30 seconds of overtime. That’s when four-year senior midfielder Katie Sullivan crashed the net on yet another suffocating Summit attack, took a touch from the outside and then chipped the ball over the Rifle keeper’s head for her second goal of the season — the final goal of the game and the final goal of her high school career.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

“Honestly, I thought it was going to go over (the goal),” she said after escaping from a swarm of hugs. “You get that anxiety right before it goes in. … This was such a fun year. I know our record doesn’t show it, but we really came together as a team.”

It’s true: This season didn’t play out the way that Sullivan and head coach Tommy Gogolen expected or wanted. The Tigers ended with a 3-11-1 record overall (2-10-1 league) and had more than a few games with no scoring.

But, if the varsity squad can be proud of a single game, this was it. Before letting her senior captains score, freshman forward Sydney Kerstiens started hot with a goal early in the first half. Like her partner up top, sophomore Gisele Thompson, Kersteins was everywhere she needed to be on almost every attack. This helped the Lady Tigers split possession about 80-20 with Rifle — by far one of the season’s most suffocating performances — and Gogolen credits his young forwards for playing tough through setbacks and injuries.

“We played well,” Gogolen said. “We did a lot of good things, and we’re a young team, and unfortunately we went down with injuries in the second half (of the season). But, Summit girl’s soccer has a bright future, for sure.”

That’s not to say everything went well in this final game. The Tigers midfield still has a bad habit of blindly booting the ball rather than taking a few touches to see the defense, and just about everyone was guilty of throwing an elbow or two. This team likes to play physical — it’s the kind of physicality Gogolen wants — but it nearly backfired when Rifle went ahead 2-1 late in the first on a penalty kick for shoving. If the season had ended on that note, the scene on the field at Tigers Stadium might have been much different: no OT, no Sullivan goal, no hugging and cheering and charging from the bleachers.

But, Summit wasn’t about to let that happen, and they made the most of every last second — not to mention every chance for something totally new. After playing in the net all season (and for three seasons before that), senior keeper Lexi Vanderhoeven traded gloves for a white jersey and played her final half in the field. She showed impressive ball control — she plans to try out for the Chapman University team next season — and meshed well with Thompson for more than a few one-two attacks up the middle.

Finally, in the 47th minute, Vanderhoeven found a golden opportunity on a free kick. The Rifle goalie bobbled it once, and that was all she needed, crashing the line to bump the ball for a 2-2 tie.

“It was Senior Night, our last night, and Lexi begged me to play forward,” Gogolen said after the game. “She said, ‘I’ll score a goal for you,’ and then she did. She made it happen.”

Like her good friend Sullivan — they’re the only two seniors to play all four years — Vanderhoeven will remember this goal for a long time: It was her first and only goal as a high school player.

“I’ve been begging this one,” she paused to point at her coach, “All year to put me in, and he finally did. I’m always saving the goals, so I know what the goalie does on the line, and that’s why I got right in there. Guess I just got lucky.”

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