Baker's goal puts Mustangs in final

NEWTOWN - It went just like Immaculate's Nicole Baker planned.

With fourth seed Immaculate and top seed Masuk locked at three penalty goals each after the teams tied 1-1 after 100 minutes of soccer, it was Baker's turn to kick in the last of the fifth frame.


Baker calmly walked to the ball, and as soon as the whistle was blown, smashed the shot past the right side of Masuk goalie Erin Lillywhite , giving the Mustangs a return trip to the SWC championship game.

"I had been doing (penalty kicks) during practice, doing them during the winter," said Baker, a senior forward. "Some of the girls were saying which way (Lillywhite) was leaning, but I knew where I was going to kick it before I went up there."


When the ball went in, the Mustangs sprinted toward her faster than they had run all game.

"This means everything to the program," Immaculate coach Nelson Mingachos said.

Having played to a 2-2 tie against Masuk in last year's SWC championship, Immaculate will look to win the tournament outright when it plays sixth-seeded Bunnell Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Pomperaug.

With Lillywhite having totaled 14 shutouts as Masuk amassed a 13-0-1 record during the regular season, Immaculate's one goal through two halves and two overtimes was impressive enough, let alone scoring on four of five penalty kicks.

"This was a total shock," Mingachos said. "You know us as a small S school, competing with a LL school , the girls never gave up."

When Masuk forward Ashley Testani headed in the game's first goal with 2:03 left in the first half, it looked as if shutout No. 15 was imminent for Lillywhite. The Immaculate offense had taken three shots through the first half compared to nine for Masuk, with just one of them on net.

More than halfway through the second half Immaculate was still without any scoring threats to speak of, but with 15:32 left in the second half they began to penetrate the Masuk defense.

Mustangs forward Lindsay Brown recieved a pass toward the left side of the net, and took an impressive off balance shot that Lillywhite kneeled to stop.

Less than a minute later, Amanda Genova headed a lofted Nicole Sieber pass into a wide open net.

"I told the girls at halftime, we were going to try and compete for the first 25 minutes, then get agressive. We moved Sieber to sweeper and Genova to center mid," Mingachos said.

Behind Immaculate goalie Nikki Weiss ' six second-half saves, Immaculate emerged from regulation deadlocked at 1-1.

To Masuk coach Elanor Brainard , it wasn't what the Panthers did wrong, but all the things Immaculate did right.

"Immaculate started stepping up and winning more balls in the field," she said. "They did exactly what I expected. Top notch kids don't back down."

In the penalty kick session, Masuk immediately responded to the Mustangs' emotional revival, scoring on their first two shots by Testani and Lillywhite.

Then Immaculate came back again, scoring on their next three shots by Sieber, Courtney McMahon and Genova. After two fully horizontal diving-saves from Weiss, Baker got her chance to do it just like she'd practiced.

"Even with our two SWC championships, people still give us a hard time for playing in a small class," Weiss said. "But Masuk is a big team, and we don't just win by beating small schools."

Immaculate (12-5-1)0 1 0 0 - 1

Masuk (13-1-1)1 0 0 0 - 1

(Immaculate wins 4-3 on penalty kicks)

SCORING: 1. M, Ashley Testani ( Lindsay Stanton ); 2. I, Amanda Genova (Nicole Sieber). SHOTS: Masuk 22, Immaculate 12. SAVES: Nikki Weiss (I) 11, Erin Lillywhite (M) 6. CORNER KICKS: Immaculate 1, Masuk 1.