With 20 minutes to go in the semifinal of the Class 2A Sycamore girls soccer regional semifinal Tuesday, few in the stands were thinking overtime. No one but the most ardent Burlington Central fans was planning a Rockets' victory celebration.
Hampshire led 3-0 and was seemingly able to run out the clock. But by the end of overtime, it was indeed the Rockets who were celebrating.
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Alyssa Messina scored the tying goal with 1:11 left in regulation, then scored the eventual game-winner halfway through the first overtime as the Rockets completed the improbable comeback for a 4-3 victory.
The Rockets will face the winner of tonight's match between Sycamore and Crystal Lake Central for the regional title on Friday.
Alex Zeller scored twice and Alexis Maze once as Hampshire took a 3-0 halftime lead.
Central (18-2-1) had some chances early in the second half but couldn't convert. Then, in the final 18 minutes, the Rockets began to chip away. Camille Dela Cruz threaded a long free kick to Cali Andrew, who was wide open in front of the right post and she banged it home from point-blank range to get the Rockets on the board.
Exactly 4 minutes later, Jessi Marchetti fed Cassi Ciganek, who scored from about the same spot to make it 3-2.
Hampshire had chances for an insurance goal, but the Whip-Purs saw 2 shots hit the crossbar and saw Central goalkeeper Taylor Martin stop a point-blank shot by Zeller.
Still, it looked like Hampshire (7-12) would escape with the win as the clock ticked under 2 minutes. Hampshire's keeper stopped a late shot, but the ball trickled free. Messina pounced on the rebound to tie it up.
"When she bobbled it I knew I had a shot," said Messina. "She had bobbled it before, so I thought she might."
The Rockets dominated the extra session, and took advantage when Andrew raced up the left side and fired a perfect centering pass to Messina, who raced in untouched and fired in the game-winner.
"They capitalized on our mistakes," said Central coach Stephen Berry. "They capitalized on us being a little bit soft. We came in and regrouped at halftime, not trying to point fingers and just figure it out: keep doing what we're doing, pass a little bit more, maybe shoot a little bit earlier, which I think happened.
"With 15 minutes to go, still down by 3, we said 'Just get that one. Maybe it will open things up a little bit.' We knew we can't get it all back at one. To tie it up at 1:11 is a tribute to just how hard they committed themselves to the comeback. But, hopefully we don't have to do that again."
The Whip-Purs had things pretty much their own way for the first 40 minutes, scoring 3 times in a 20-minute span during the half.
"It was nice for 40 minutes," said Hampshire coach Patrick O'Brien. "We tried to nurse it a little bit."