Grace Bruce positioned herself at the top of the arc with four seconds on the clock and waited for the sound of the whistle so she could take her free-position shot.
South Carroll goalie Julia Weiss made a dash to stop Bruce's attempt, but the ball met the back of the net and Bruce was swarmed with hugs from her Century teammates. The sophomore midfielder's goal gave the Knights a 12-11 victory over the county champion Cavaliers in a Class 2A West Section 1 semifinal Friday at Parker Field.
"Honestly, I was just thinking, 'I do not want to play overtime,' so this better go in," Bruce said.
Bruce's teammates had faith that she would score.
"I knew Grace got it because she's good at that and I was just so excited," freshman midfielder Demma Hall said.
Bruce and Hall combined for eight goals, four apiece, for the Knights. Hall added two assists in the anticipated matchup between the two county foes. The Cavaliers defeated the Knights for the first time in program history during the regular season, but the Knights were determined to not let that happen again.
The teams received a first-round bye in the regional playoffs, which set up Friday's rematch.
"I think it was huge," Century coach Becky Groves said, in reference to the Knights' regular-season loss to SC. "When you lose, it's a learning lesson and you learn way more when you lose than when you win a game. I think that was the turning point in our season because it was South Carroll, we had never lost to them before. They're obviously much better than people gave them credit for, but it was the first time so we really took that to heart and that was a turning point where we knew we needed to work harder. We were not happy about where we were."
The Knights (10-4) scored four straight goals to open the game and continued that momentum to build a 5-1 lead with less than 10 minutes left in the first half.
Weiss made a point-blank save on Bruce with 1:59 on the clock and the ball was returned to the Cavs. SC's Mia Mackenzie and Natalie Hoff scored within 46 seconds of one another to trim the deficit, 6-4, at the half.
Bruce and sophomore Christina Haspert opened the second half with goals for the Knights. South Carroll went on the man-up advantage with 13:46 to go after Century's Maggie Bornyek was carded for a cross check. Mackenzie scored from the free position to spark a three-goal scoring run for the Cavs.
"The first bit of the second half we were, for the most part, getting the draws, so that kind of put us up a bit," Bruce said. "Once they started getting it, they came back and it was a close game from there on out."
The Cavaliers continued to inch their way closer to the Knights as the teams traded goals back and forth. SC junior midfielder Riley Evans fired a shot past Knights goalie Claire Hollinger to tie the score at 11-11 with 1:34 left to play. The Knights won the next draw that eventually helped set up Bruce's game-winner.
Mackenzie and sophomore midfielder Paige Abbott each scored three goals for the Cavaliers (11-2). Weiss made 11 saves in goal.
Despite their season-ending loss, the Cavaliers might remember this year for a while. The Cavs won 10 straight games this season and captured the program's first county championship in the process.
"I can't thank the girls enough, honestly," Cavs coach Brigid McTavish said. "If they didn't come out and work hard for me every day and practice in the offseason and everything, we wouldn't have had such a successful season. When they do come to me in practice, they're always working hard, they're having fun, they get along so it is going to be nice getting most of them back for next year. It was a big turnaround for us and we're looking forward to the future."
Goals: C-Madison Plitt, Grace Bruce 4, Kelsey Morrison, Maddie Bates, Christina Haspert, Demma Hall 4; SC-Mia Mackenzie 3, Riley Evans 2, Paige Abbott 3, Natalie Hoff, Jenna McDermott 2.
Assists: C-Plitt, Bates, Haspert, Hall 2; SC-Shannon Finch, Abbey Behn, Jenna McDermott.
Saves: C-9 (Claire Hollinger); SC-11 (Julia Weiss).
Halftime: Century, 6-4.