Gahanna goalkeeper Kayla Hensley stood on her head, making two spectacular saves in the first half and a diving stop on Olentangy Liberty’s Sarina Dirrig in the shootout as the Lions notched a 2-1 Division I regional semifinal win Tuesday in Dublin.
Madison Hansen, Molly Rose, Mia Dragich and Katie Stafford, whose shot appeared to miss wide to delay the celebration, each scored as Gahanna went 4-for-4 to win the shootout 4-2.
“PK’s are not a true representation of the game of soccer, but the game had to end sometime,” Patriots coach Kristen McMahon said.
Hensley made a diving save to her left on Dirrig’s low liner on the first shot of the shootout.
Emma Koshan missed wide right on Liberty’s second chance before Sydney Weaver and Olivia Sensky each buried shots to keep the Patriots alive.
Gahanna (18-0-2) remains undefeated with the win. The Lions have been particularly stout on defense, allowing just four goals all season coming into the game.
“We didn’t have an easy way to get here and we faced a really good team (Tuesday) night,” McMahon said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy … they let four goals in all year and we got one on them.”
Hensley, who made two big saves to keep it a scoreless tie in the first half, was huge.
The second save came as Abby Townsend evaded defenders on the left side before she sent a bending shot to the top right corner that Hensley knocked out of bounds on a dive.
Dirrig put the Patriots on top with a header off Koshan’s ensuing corner kick with 16:41 remaining in the half.
“It’s typical (of) what (Dirrig) does,” McMahon said. “Sarina steps up when we need her and (Tuesday night) was definitely a time of need.”
Dirrig was denied earlier in the half after Abby Jones placed a centering pass perfectly in front. Hensley dove in front of Dirrig’s one-timer to keep it scoreless in the ninth minute.
“Brilliant saves … I can tell why they only let in four goals,” McMahon said.
Hensley finished with seven saves for the Lions.
Liberty (15-4-1) held the lead through halftime.
Gahanna put pressure on early in the second half, but the Liberty defense held it without a quality scoring chance until Hansen tied it up on an Alison Smitely corner kick with 14:45 remaining in regulation.
“Somebody wasn’t marking – I think there was a miscommunication,” McMahon said. “I think half their goals have come off of corners. We didn’t give them many, but we gave them a few.”
Liberty goalie Emma Campbell was outstanding all night long with 11 saves in goal for the Patriots.
“She’s a senior – it’s the last time she’ll ever play for us – I know that’s hard,” McMahon said. “That was a team effort … if we would have scored in regulation, or overtime or the second overtime, it would have been different. So, I know she feels like she’s carrying the burden right now, but (it’s) definitely not (hers to carry).”
Gahanna faces Pickerington North in the regional final Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. at a site to be announced.
Also: Archbishop Alter 2, Big Walnut 0 (Division II regional semifinal).
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.