Cavies clear Pana hurdle

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Cavaliers win first regional since 2011 by defeating Panthers

By Eric Becker

After Pana scored a game-tying goal early in the second half of Friday’s regional championship against Carlinville at Loveless Park, there had to be some doubters out there.

Pana had eliminated Carlinville from postseason each of the last two years, including a 1-0 penalty kick loss to them in last season’s regional championship game.

This time around, it would be a fortunate bounce and collision of players near the goal  that enabled Carlinville to get the go-ahead goal, and the Cavaliers held on for a 2-1 victory over the Pana Panthers.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” Carlinville coach Ashley Hayes said. “Even though we beat them earlier in the season, we knew that didn’t matter. We talked and talked and talked – many of our players are upperclassmen, so they’ve been around for those two losses and they know how it feels. They dug deep and got the winning goal.”

The win sends Carlinville to Tuesday’s Sectional semifinal at Quincy Notre Dame, taking on Pleasant Plains at 6 p.m. Updates on this game can be found at

Pleasant Plains beat Carlinville 3-1 in the championship game of the season-opening Carlinville Spring Cup at Blackburn College.

Some of the Carlinville senior players were just happy to get over that hump that Pana had left the past couple of years.

“It feels unlike anything else,” senior Karley Dixon said. “I never thought we would make it here. We’re glad for round three – third time’s the charm.”

Senior Hannah Lair was an impact player for Carlinville this season, and was in the middle of the play for the final goal of the game.

“Our defense was awesome,” Lair said. “It’s all about working together and making touches and connecting balls. We’ve worked really hard, so it’s a good feeling.”

Grace Zachary also played a key role as a senior captain.

“It’s kind of nice to get them back, though, Zachary said of beating Pana after losing to them the last two regional tournaments. “We’ve put in a lot of hard work and it’s just nice getting here, I guess.”

Carlinville got on the board first when Skylar Nickel scored at the 5:33 mark, in the sixth minute, on an unassisted goal, as the ball deflected off the goalie and trickled into the net.

It stayed 1-0 into halftime, as the Cavies had far many more chances than Pana, including a long shot from the right side that nearly found the left corner of the net.

It stayed 1-0 into halftime. Pana took advantage of an early second half chance and tied it up at the 46:24 mark, or the sixth minute of the second half, on a Daylee Denton unassisted goal which took a hop past goalie Sarah DeNeve in front of the net.

But with 15:36 left in regulation, the Cavaliers would get the go-ahead tally.

Nickel drove the ball down the right side, then made a crossing pass toward the middle of the goal area. There was a convergence of players where the Pana goalie made an attempt to catch the ball.

A collision of players led to the ball glancing off the goalie’s hands. With her left foot, Taylor Wills was in the right place at the right time. She fired away at an open net, getting the go ahead goal to make it 2-1.

“Skyler Nickel crossed it and I went in for a header and I was kind of on the ground – I didn’t see Taylor hit it in,” Lair said. “But I looked up and the ball is in the corner of the net and I was so happy. I jumped up  and went crazy. It was awesome.”

Pana made a late charge, with a crossing pass going across the goal area late in the game, but no shot attempt.

The game would eventually come to an end with the Cavaliers regional soccer champions.

“We just had to stay relaxed,” Dixon said. “Got to keep it cool, keep it calmed down and make passes.”

Zachary said the team didn’t let down after giving up the game tying goal.

“I think it was us continuing to work together and keep working hard – that’s the only thing you can do in those situations,” Zachary said.

Coach Hayes said it was a matter of keep shooting the ball on goal, and something good would happen.

“That’s kind of how we play – you’ve got to get the ball in and we told the girls at halftime, shoot, shoot, shoot,” Hayes said. “That paid off.”