Being a goalkeeper during a shootout can be an intimidating and lonely feeling.
For Oregon junior goalkeeper Melia Moyer, it became a chance to shine.
Moyer stopped two kicks in the shootout of the WIAA Division 2 girls soccer championship Saturday, June 15, to help the second-ranked Panthers win their second state in five years.
Oregon's 2-1 win over top-ranked Whitefish Bay at Uilhlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee lived up to its billing. After two overtimes where both the Panthers and Blue Dukes had golden scoring opportunities, it ended with a 4-1 shootout.
Oregon got goals from senior defender Sydney McKee, junior defender Emma Halverson, senior Randey Lewis and senior midfielder Katie Eisele.
Halverson gave the Panthers a 2-1 lead in the shootout, and Moyer kept the lead by making a diving save on Whitefish Bay senior midfielder Liz Murphy’s shot.
Moyer said she had shaken off her nerves with the previous kick, going in.
"When I dove, I just went for it and trusted my instincts," Moyer said. "When I got on the ball, I got some confidence that carried on to the next couple of shots.”
The Blue Dukes had outshot the Panthers 24-8 and had 14 corner kicks. But Moyer finished with 10 saves.
She entered the championship game with 41 saves this season and 15 shutouts, one away from the school record which was set in 2017.
“I’m just so grateful I was able to perform for my team,” Moyer said. “To be able to come through in the end is amazing. It’s been our No. 1 goal all year.”
Oregon coach Nelson Brownell wasn’t surprised it came down to a shootout.
“We came into that second overtime thinking if we can hold them, we can win that shootout because Melia has just been unbelievable as far as goalkeeping goes lately,” Brownell said. “She’s one of the top goalkeepers in the state in my mind.”
Oregon (18-0-1) was making its fifth straight state appearance and won the championship for the first time since 2015.
McKee said the state title game was reminiscent of her freshman year, in 2016, when Oregon lost the title game to Homestead 2-1 in a shootout after two overtimes.
“Being on this team the past four years having to come to state every year and not getting to go away with that gold ball, it made this win so much better,” McKee said. “I’m just ecstatic.”
The Blue Dukes struck first when Belle Patzer scored on an assist from Starker in the 48th minute. The Panthers answered when junior midfielder Hanna Rohrer scored from 23 yards out on a direct kick in the 52nd minute.
“On those kicks, I try to aim for the far right corner,” Rohrer said. “I knew the wind was behind me. I kicked it less hard than I usually would.”
Brownell said set plays like free kicks and corner kicks are areas the Panthers worked on extra during practice leading up to the state tournament. The Panthers won two sectional games sparked by three header goals off corner kicks.
“We saw things in games past that we didn’t like what was happening,” Brownell said. “Hanna had a great ball. You have to put it on frame in order to give yourself a chance, and Hanna did exactly what she needed to do.”
Both the Panthers and Blue Dukes dodged bullets in the two overtimes. In the first extra session, midfieder Maggie Starker fired a shot with 49 seconds to go that Moyer made the save by scoping up the shot. With one second left, Starker’s shot inside the box sailed wide right.
In the second overtime, Moyer made a save on a shot by Starker in the 10th minute. The Blue Dukes also had two shots sail over the cross bar in the two extra sessions.
When the Panthers got to the shootout, that set the stage for the most prolific offense in program history. Oregon finished the season with a school record 103 goals in a single season.
Halverson was excited to contribute a goal in the victory.
“I have been waiting for this gold ball for so long,” Halverson said. “It’s just surreal.”
Halverson recalled her battles with Moyer in practice on penalty kicks and shootout situations.
“All I could think about is we have done it in practice, and if I can score against Melia in practice, then I can score against any goalie in the state,” she said.
It was quite a way to go out for Brownell, who is moving to Washington in July because his wife got a new job.
“The players on this team never gave up and always fought for everything we have done this year.”
Brownell served as an assistant girls and boys soccer coach for five years before becoming the head coach this season.
Brownell welcomed the community spirit and support with the Panthers.
“The school and community as a whole has embraced me school-wise and coaching wise over the past five years,” he said. “Everyone has supported me and I can’t thank them enough.”
With 17 players returning next season, Halverson is already thinking about making a sixth straight state appearance next year.
“All I can say is we will be back again next year,” she said.