Shirley's Football Club saved a perfect season and clinched the championship in the 2012 NMIFA Women's Spring League after outlasting Paire Football Club, 5-4, in a down-to-the-wire finale last Saturday at the Oleai Sports Complex Field.
Mikky Vargas hit the go-ahead goal in the penalty shootout, while goalie Jhaneeka Atalig made a save to finally wrap up the more than two hours title match and hand Shirley's the victory.
The winner-take-all finals went into the penalty shootout when Shirley's and Paire were tied, 2-all, after the two 40-minute halves and were still in a deadlock, 3-all, after the 30-minute extra time.
In the penalty shootout, Shirley's Marielle Gariguez was called first to the box and made it to the board after Paire goalie Temary Gramlich had butterfingers and let the ball slipped away from her hands and rolled toward the goal. Paire's Megan Herber tied the game anew when her attempt went in, as Atalig was a step slower from sliding toward her right side.
Marilou Gariguez was next for Shirley's, but this time, Gramlich kept her ground and tapped the ball out. However, Paire failed to take the lead, as Phalai Frink's kick went too high and didn't event hit the post.
Learning from Frink's strong kick, Shirley's Alexa Vergara went for a soft, but quick shot, catching Gramlich off guard for their 4-3 advantage. However, Paire forced another deadlock when Michiko Tenorio tricked Atalig, who went for a dive, and missed the former's loop shot.
Next up for Shirley's was Jeralyn Castillo, who connected on her first attempt, but the shot was nullified as the ball was placed on a wrong spot, and she went on to miss her second shot that hit the center post. Fortunately for Shirley's, Vanessa Pritchard also muffed her attempt with the ball going out passing the right post.
Alexa Vergara was the last to step into the box and she admitted she felt the pressure too much that she went a few steps away from the box before rushing for a thunder quick kick that was way too fast for Gramlich.
Down, 5-4, it was Natalie Hill's turn to be at the pressure cooker and hit the equalizer. She had a good line with the ball rolling down toward Atalig's left side, but the Shirley's goalie read Hill's body language and dove for the save.
“Coach Johann (Noetzel) taught me how to read a player's body language when hitting a penalty kick, so I watched Natalie's movements and I knew she was leaning toward my left,” Atalig said.
Both Paire and Shirley's had chances to win the game in regulation and in the extra minutes. In the second half, Paire went up, 2-1, off Herber's penalty kick in the 32nd minute. However, with only two minutes remaining in the second half, Shirley's Lalaine Pagarao broke away from her defenders, rushed toward the right sideline and made a cross to tie the match. A miss header from Frink in the last four seconds of the second half sent the game in extra minutes.
In the extension, Paire and Shirley's played two 15-minute period and after the first 15 minutes of the game, the finale was still even as neither team scored. With both teams playing for more than two hours and exhaustion beginning to take its toll on the players, some Shirley's strikers were overheard pleading to their teammates to score to end the game.
Charlene Lizardo must have heard her teammates' appeal, as she came from the bench and surprisingly scored from the right wing at the 1:51 mark of the second 15-minute extra time. However, Paire refused to give up and tied the match anew after Herber connected on another penalty kick, just three minutes before the 15-minute extra time lapsed and sent the game in penalty shootout.
Herber went on to tally four goals for Paire, as she also light up the scoreboard in the 37th minute of the first half. Shirley's drew first blood in the exciting title match after Marielle Gariguez found the back of the net in the 8th minute.
Shirley's finished the regular season of the six-team league with a 9-1-0 win-draw-loss record and advanced to the finals after beating MP United. Paire, which drew Shirley's in their second outing after losing their first meeting, made it to the title game after downing Independents Football Club.