COLUMBIA — Right before she stepped up to the penalty kick line, Rock Bridge soccer player Anna Alioto said she had a vision that she was going to make the goal and win the game for the Bruins.
As the referee gave her the sign to go ahead with her kick, the nearly 200 rowdy fans at Hickman stadium became silent.
If Alioto, a sophomore, made the kick, the Bruins would win. If not, then the Kewpies would still have a shot in another round of penalty kicks.
Alioto stepped up and with her left foot tapped the ball past Hickman goalie Monica Ross into the right corner of the net, sending her Rock Bridge teammates storming onto the field to celebrate with her.
"When you're just standing there waiting, you envision the goal in your head," Alioto said. "You've got to know where you're putting the ball, how you're putting it, and you just can't hesitate. You have to go in knowing you're going to make it.
“I love the pressure feeling. It makes me a better player. I was really nervous, oh my gosh. But, at the same time, you know it’s your moment, it’s your time. You know that it’s up to you, but you’re not really thinking about that.”
The game went scoreless in regulation and through two 10-minute overtime sessions as well as one set of penalty kicks in which the teams split at three goals each, before heading to a second set.
Just before Alioto secured the win for Rock Bridge, junior goalie Carrie Levy deflected a shot by Hickman senior Mica Lopez, sending the ball went just wide of the net. After missing the shot, Lopez walked back to her teammates, and fighting back tears, put her jersey over her face. Her teammates tried to comfort her, but seconds later, Alioto made her shot.
“All I kept thinking was this is why I play soccer,” Levy said. “I play for moments like these. You never forget games like this.”
Levy and her Rock Bridge teammates are getting used to playing in high-pressure situations such as shootouts to decide the game. Last weekend, the Bruins traveled to the Tournament of Champions in Burlington, Iowa, and played three games that all went to shootouts. The Bruins lost the first two, but won the third.
Levy was the goalie for two of those games, and was also in net against Helias earlier this season, another game that came down to a shootout.
“All I have to do is get a hand on it, so there’s definitely more pressure on the shooter,” Levy said. “The shooter has to know where they’re going, put the right pace on it, determine a good spot, so they’ve got a lot more nerves than I do.”
Before the shootout started, Rock Bridge coach Marc VanDover calmed his team down by telling them that they’ve been in this situation before, and to just do what they know.
“It takes both the keeper and the shooter out of their normal rhythm of the game,” VanDover said. “I just made sure they took a deep breath and refocused before heading out there.”
With the win, Rock Bridge improves to 8-9. The Bruins travel this weekend to Quincy, Ill., to play three games at the Quincy Notre Dame Tournament. Hickman travels Monday to Sedalia.