A victory cheer rocked the Mount Hebron girls soccer team's bus as it chugged from the parking lot at Liberty High on Monday night.
The Vikings, a team not known previously for its soccer prowess, notched an important 2-1 upset of spunky Liberty -- a Class 3A regional finalist last year.
And Mount Hebron did it in slam-bang fashion when sophomore striker Bromley Whitt kicked a left-footed shot into the goal with just 14seconds remaining in the game. The goal broke a 1-1 tie that had stood since the first half.
Whitt's score gave Mount Hebron its second win of the season against no losses and fueled the Vikings' hopes for making their first regional playoff.
"It was a key game for us," Vikings coach George Myers said. "It was our toughest pre-league opponent."
The contest was emotional and physical. Whitt's goal from6 yards out was set up by a long, dead-ball kick from Lori Pasquantonio to Amy Fine at the left post. Fine centered it to Whitt, who kicked it waist-high past Liberty goalie Jen Bastress' right side.
"Once they got it inside the box, it was impossible to stop," Bastress said.
Whitt and her teammates were ecstatic.
"This is awesome," Whitt said. "Coach Myers told us that how our season went depended onthis game. Our goal is to make the playoffs."
Mount Hebron, whichwon five games while losing seven last season -- its best record ever -- appears on the way to an even better year now.
"Liberty was shocked, because they thought they'd walk over us," Pasquantonio said."This was definitely one of our most intense games."
Pasquantonio, an under-15 1/2 Olympic Development Program state-team player and aformer member of the Columbia Kicks club team, said she originally intended to take a shot toward the far post herself but spotted Fine in the clear and passed instead.
Pasquantonio, a junior striker, tied the game, 1-1, in the 22nd minute on a 15-yard indirect kick that rippled the net high and just inside the right post. Otto kicked the ball into play between Pasquantonio's legs on that indirect.
Liberty scored first in the ninth minute on a 15-yard shot from the middleof the field by its star player, senior forward Julie Cox.
Mount Hebron's starting goalie, Brandee Eckstrom, who played the first halfand made six saves, hesitated in coming out and allowed Cox room to score the goal.
But Eckstrom made several good saves, and stopped a one-on-one from Amy Wolff in the 25th minute that looked as though it would be a sure score for Liberty.
Mount Hebron played poorly in the first 10 minutes before coming to life.
"We got taken out ofour game by their physical style," Vikings junior stopper Otto said."We have a lot more skill than we showed tonight."
Otto, an under-17 ODP state-team player and a member of the '75 Columbia Command club team, saved the game for Mount Hebron with 10 minutes left to playby making a kick-save at the 10-yard line on what looked like a certain Liberty score.
Liberty outshot Mount Hebron, 17-10, and at times dominated play.
The Lions put three shots over the net in the opening minutes of the game, however, giving up chances to put the Vikings away.