Mark DeCotis, Athletic Communications
|Office:||321-433-5700, 321-759-4540 (C)
Nov. 20, 2013 - Playing soccer in Wednesday's pouring rain wasn't a problem for Laramie County Community College of Cheyenne, WY. After all, had it been playing at home instead of on Eastern Florida State College's Melbourne Campus it would have been 18 degrees and most likely snowing.
But Laramie shook off the weather and more importantly defending national champion Paradise Valley Community College of Phoenix, AZ to score a 4-2 penalty kicks victory. The triumph advanced Laramie to Friday's NJCAA Division I Women's Soccer National Championship semifinal against top-seeded Iowa Western Community College.
The game was tied 2-2 after 90 minutes of regulation and became the third match of the tournament to go to a shootout.
Once there Laramie got goals from sophomore Sayit Mejia Bello, sophomore Eri Unai, freshman Yuko Shinomiya and finally from sophomore Taylor Hockley that proved to be the winner.
In a rarity in soccer, the penalty kick was Hockley's second successful set piece tally of the game. Her first came with 29 minutes and 20 seconds to play in the second half and tied things at 2-2.
Hockley's conversion came on the heels of two goals in three minutes from Paradise Valley sophomore Nicole Nsa which gave the Pumas a 2-1 lead. Nsa scored at the 37:30 and 34:29 marks and it appeared Paradise was en route to oust Laramie from the tournament for the second straight year.
But then Hockley converted, Laramie hung tough and the game went to the shootout. That's where Nsa and freshman classmate Savannah Quintana missed without Laramie freshman goalkeeper Jessie Bradley having to lay a glove on the ball. Nsa was wide right and Quintana missed high.
Laramie was good on three of four – sophomore Victoria Arenas missed - and moved on and up.
Laramie wasted little time in getting on the scoreboard as sophomore midfielder Francesca Ali beat a diving Paradise goalkeeper Rachel Cardwell to the left hand side of the net 8 minutes and 9 seconds into the first half.
The 1-0 score stood at halftime as the rain continued to fall.
"It was a great time and a great fun match," said Jim Gardner, the head coach of the seventh-seeded Golden Eagles.
"We played a great game plan the first half and then in the second half I messed up and changed the formation a little bit (to a 4-4-2) thinking we'd have better attack up the middle and that proved to be not so good.
"They scored the first goal and we were on our heels. We switched back up a little late and they scored the second goal. All the kicks (goals) were scored on direct kicks. Neither team had chances to get inside the box and get hard shots. I think that I'm pretty happy that my team overcame my weaknesses and they did a good job."
As for Hockley, she was thrilled.
"I haven't missed a PK at all year this year in practice and stuff so I was just like 'I need to step up big in this game, especially at nationals and I need to produce and have faith in myself.' "
She had faith but also nerves.
"The first time I wasn't near as nervous because I knew 'hey if I miss this one I know that my team is going to fight just as hard for me and for everybody else to make an actual goal,' " she said.
"The second one I was just so nervous. I was like 'wow, this is important, this is what we worked for all season.' "
And now that Laramie is in the semifinals: "To get into the semis as a sophomore is a really good feeling because my school hasn't been in the semis in a while," Hockley said.
"Best of luck (to other teams) better be ready because we're going to fight for it. We got this far. We're ready."
Laramie is now 18-2-2 and Paradise finished at 21-1-2.