Glenelg's Katie Kirley couldn't figure out why she was left so wide open, but she didn't wonder long.
Taking a pass from Stephanie Simpson near the top of the box, the senior forward took a couple steps toward goal and gently kicked the ball into an open net to lift the 13th-ranked Gladiators past visiting South Carroll, 2-1, in double overtime yesterday in the season opener for both teams.
It was a strange ending because of how easy the goal was in a game that was filled with hard play and intensity.
"I really don't know what happened," said Kirley, whose goal late in the first half tied the game. "All of a sudden I saw the ball roll up to me and no one was around. I didn't understand how there was absolutely no one there."
South Carroll goalie Kathleen McLean was off her line and never had a chance as the ball rolled into the right corner of the net 72 seconds into the second overtime period.
South Carroll sweeper Leah Onda, who played very well, was as surprised as anyone. "We were pushing up and they hit a little through ball and as we turned she was already through us," Onda said.
Added South Carroll coach Jim Horn: "We're a young team and we made some mistakes a young team makes. We had some opportunities that we didn't take advantage of, and we gave them opportunities that we shouldn't have, like the last goal. That girl shouldn't have been wide open."
South Carroll came out strong, and took the lead on freshman Kelly Kasper's goal midway in the first half. Glenelg, the defending Class 1A state champions, played much better after that, and Kirley evened the game three minutes before halftime.
"They had the better of it early, then we settled in and the second part of the first half we began to take the play to them," said Glenelg coach Mike Williams.
Glenelg started 5-foot senior Lauren Koutrelakos in goal, her first time playing that position. She hardly was tested because her defenders - sweeper Bryn Buckler, stopper Stephanie Lewis and backs Erin Edell and Amy Knell - were excellent. Buckler, a sophomore new to the position her graduated sister played last year, stopped a breakaway late in regulation with an superb slide tackle.
Glenelg and South Carroll have played each other the last seven years, and each team has two wins, two losses and three ties.