Sharp's free kick the difference as Metro State wins
Metro State wins Division II women's soccer championship title. Trevor Brown Jr./NCAA Photos.
By Sean Smith
The NCAA News
You couldn’t miss Metropolitan State’s Kira Sharp.
With neon-green-dyed tips on her red hair matching her neon-green shoes, Sharp stood over the ball with a chance to win the Division II Women’s Soccer Championship in sudden-death overtime. After Grand Valley State was whistled for a rough foul in the first overtime period, Sharp lined up a free kick from 23 yards out in the 94th minute.
She looped a curving, knuckling shot over the Grand Valley State defensive wall that plunged into the bottom-left corner of the net, dinging the post on the way in for the game’s only goal.
Lakers goalie Kristina Nasturzio could get nowhere near it. Some stunned Grand Valley State players looked on. Some collapsed on the field.
It was Sharp’s second overtime winner in as many games. Sharp wheeled away and was mobbed by teammates and carried off the sidelines.
Metro State, 24-2, celebrated its second Division II women’s soccer title in three years.
“I knew it was going in the second I hit it,” Sharp said. “I had the confidence to take that shot.”
Sharp and Metro State Roadrunners coach Danny Sanchez knew how easily they could have been the ones watching Grand Valley State celebrate.
Roadrunners goalie Rachel Zollner made a handful of critical saves to help maintain the scoreless deadlock and send the game into overtime.
“It was a very even match that could have gone either way,” Sanchez said. “They had us on our heels, and they had some great chances at the end of the game.”
the game livened up after the break.
The Roadrunners stifled Katy Tafler, the nation’s leading scorer with 33 goals in 22 games, with midfielder Vanessa Mais doubling up on her.
Metro State strung a series of early chances, led by Sharp, who twice managed to flick headers toward her teammates from the near post on corner kicks, but Amira Ebel’s shot was wide on the first effort and the Lakers cleared the second.
Later, Kylee Hanavan twisted past a defender at the right side of the penalty area, but her shot at the near-post careened off the side netting.
But Grand Valley State started lively in the second half and began stretching the Roadrunners’ defense, with two chances set up by speedy forward Shannon Carrier.
Carrier sped past the defense and cut the ball back for Tafler, whose effort was gathered comfortably by Metro State goalkeeper Zollner.
Carrier forced a difficult save minutes later, gliding past a Metro State defender, only to see Zollner charge out to stop her shot from point-blank range.
Metro State freshman forward Becca Mays nearly stole the game when she stripped a Lakers defender of the ball at the corner of the penalty area, but she shot early and Nasturzio was able to save easily.
Then seconds later, Grand Valley State nearly scored at the other end when Irie Dennis, who scored after making a 40-yard run in the semifinal Thursday, surged through the middle of the Metro State defense. But Zollner charged and plucked the ball off her feet from 12 yards out.
“I was just focused on the ball,” Zollner said. “I knew I needed to make that save. She left it just enough in front of her for me to reach it.”
Metro State hung on and finally earned a free kick after a foul outside the penalty area.
“It was an unfortunate foul in a bad spot,” Lakers coach Dave DiIanni said of Sharp’s winning play. “No one was saving that shot. The kids battled. We were a little unlucky that we didn’t score. We played well, but we just didn’t finish.”
Metro St. 1, Grand Valley St. 0
Metro St. 0 0 1 - 1
Grand Valley St. 0 0 0 - 0
OT: Metro St. Kira Sharp (unassisted) 93:39.
Shots: Metro St. 12, Grand Valley St. 13. Goalkeeper saves: Metro St. (Rachel Zollner) 4, Grand Valley St. (Kristina Nasturzio) 3.