Things were going right for Frederica Academy’s Ryan Steilen Friday afternoon at the Knight’s GISA soccer semifinal game against Heritage School.
It started with a bicycle kick, the equalizer that knotted the score at 1-1 in the second half. Then he finished a penalty kick to advance Frederica to the state championship to face the winner of Westminster Saturday night at Mercer University.
The final score of the penalty kick shootout was 1-0.
“Maybe it was Ryan’s day,” said Frederica head coach Tim O’Sullivan.
The Knights maintained possession roughly 80 percent of the game, O’Sullivan said, coming up with a handful of scoring chances that they we unable to finish.
Late in the first half, Heritage broke the stalemate by exploiting a lapse in the Frederica back line on a through pass and beating Frederica keeper John Mitchell Brock at the near post.
“At halftime we regrouped a little, and the response was good,” O’Sullivan said.
Frederica’s luck evened out when Steilen converted his “phenomenal” goal to tie the match. Heritage continued to sit back and defend, mounting their offense on counter attacks. Still, the scores held even until the end of regulation.
Neither squad could convert in the overtime period, but both had their chances. Frederica continued to possess through overtime, but Heritage fired a strong shot at Brock late in the period. Brock flashed his reflexes, made the save and forced penalty kicks.
After Steilen put home winning kick, O’Sullivan admitted the semifinal game was one of Frederica’s most challenging of the season.
“It was a little nerve-racking, but it was a good win. The guys worked hard in challenging conditions,” he said.
Frederica will play the winner of Westminster, which beat Holy Spirt 11-0, at Mercer at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. The Knights opened the season against Westminster with an exhibition, falling 2-1.
Westminster also eliminated Frederica from the state playoffs in the Final Four last season.