GREENBELT – Junior midfielder Haley Zack was not sure that she had scored. With seconds remaining in a tied game against Parkdale High School, the Eleanor Roosevelt High School junior ran alongside striker Zosia Nicholson on a two-on-two situation heading towards goal.
As Nicholson’s right-footed shot outside the penalty area was blocked, the ball rolled right at Zack, who had the clear pathway to run at the goalkeeper.
She did not waste time, firing a one-time strike at the right side of the goalmouth for her second goal of the game. After the kick, Zack only remembered being surrounded by baby blue jerseys in celebration.
“I kinda had to (kick a one-timer) because if I took another touch, I do not know if I would have made it,” Zack said. “I did not even realized that it was the last minute, I just knew it had to be done and to keep the motivation on our team.”
Like a prized heavyweight title fight, both Roosevelt and Parkdale traded blows in a thrilling encounter that looked to be going to the Riverdale side’s favor. However, Zack’s two goals in the final seven minutes were enough to lead the traditional power over the upstart as the Lady Raiders prevailed 4-3 on Oct. 18.
With the victory, Roosevelt (8-1) is in prime position to be the top seed in the 4A South region in this year’s state playoff. Zack’s brace came as Parkdale (7-2-1) took advantage of two goals from captain Madelin Mejia. The Lady Panthers were moments away from avenging last year’s regional finals loss on the same field.
However, it was Zack, who started the match in the defense but moved upfield due to her versatility and her ball-movement abilities. Head Coach Bob Sowers routinely rotates the junior into different positions, leaving her teammates to joke around about not having a set position, Zack said.
“The thing about Haley is that she can play anywhere,” Sowers said. “She is smart and so strong; She may be small but she is physically strong… But I may keep her at right-back.”
“She is just a good player all-around,” Nicholson said. “It does not matter where she plays, she is where she needs to be.”
The Lady Raiders struck first nine minutes into the match after Corina Miko’s corner kick bounced off the Parkdale goalkeeper’s hands and flew into the goal. It would only take Parkdale six minutes to score as Mejia would find a streaking Melissa Villatoro for the tying goal.
With both teams trading possession and shots, junior Louisa Ellison’s 35-yard free kick soared over the protective wall and dropped inside the goal to give Roosevelt a one-score advantage heading into halftime.
However, it would be Parkdale who had the more energy heading out of the break. After the referee called a penalty, Mejia would ace the spot kick, tying the game four minutes into the second half.
Moments later, after officials declared an indirect free kick to restart play after an injury, the captain would carry the Lady Panthers again. With a quick pass from junior Sharrah Rondina, Mejia hit a floating 25-yard goal over the entire Roosevelt defense to give Parkdale their first lead of the game with 14 minutes remaining.
With time ticking away, Roosevelt pushed their attack forward. A quick counterattack left Nicholson alone on a breakaway opportunity but instead of taking a shot, she drew in the opposing goalkeeper. This allowed Nicholson to make a slicing pass to Zack to score in an open net to tie the game. Roosevelt continued pressing until the dying seconds of the game until Zack’s game-winner.
“I am very disappointed that we lost,” Mejia said. “We saw that we were winning and got too confidant with the lead so we did not fight as hard as we should have until the end.”
For the Lady Panthers, their hopes of dominance in the county were stopped once again by Roosevelt. Memories from last year’s regional championship loss were revisited in the postgame chatter on the Parkdale sideline.
However, Head Coach Rebecca Bethea said her team is strong enough to bounce back from this experience and defeat the Lady Raiders if they meet again in the playoffs.
“We made too many mental mistakes and they capitalized on it,” Bethea said. “Perhaps we play them again in the playoffs and we will prove to everyone that it is not a Parkdale-cannot-beat-Roos thing.”