DES MOINES — Sometimes it is just a matter of an inch or two, one way or the other.
Second-seeded Bishop Heelan had battled back to tie seventh-seeded North Polk in the second half, 1-1, when the Crusaders earned three straight corner kicks in the final 1 minute, 24 seconds of regulation.
After two unsuccessful tries, the third landed in the box with several Heelan and North Polk players scrambling to get the key touch.
Heelan, the Class 1A state runner-up a year ago, could not put a foot on the ball and the Comets were able to get the game winner in overtime to end the Crusaders’ season 2-1 at Cownie Soccer Complex on Thursday.
“It was very, very close and I was trying to get a foot on it, but it was barely too far away from everybody,” said Heelan senior Ashley Aesoph as the ball was cleared away.
The Crusaders had a couple of opportunities in the 10-minute extra session, but it was the Comets freshman Landry McCoid who gathered a pass and smacked the ball past Heelan goalkeeper Mary Kate Fitzsimmons just more than halfway through overtime for the win.
North Polk, which advanced to the semifinals for the second time in three years, celebrated a victory that seemed to be slipping away most the second half. The heat and Heelan’s defense turned up the pressure in the second 40 minutes and put numerous shots on Comets’ goalkeeper Sydney Anderson.
“You have to give them a lot of credit because they did an amazing job defensively and also going forward,” Heelan head coach Clark Charlestin said. “They played a perfect game and outplayed us for a few minutes in the game, and that paid off for them.”
Aesoph had the first good chance to erase the 1-0 deficit in the second half as she gathered a failed clear attempt in front of the goal and smacked a ball that sailed over the crossbar. Two minutes later she put another shot just wide, but just before the halfway point of the second stanza Aesoph cashed in.
Another failed clear by the Comets allowed Aesoph to get a running start with the ball and she dribbled in to easily beat Anderson to tie the match at 1-all. It was her team-leading 15th goal of the season.
“We knew we had to come out quicker in the second half to make up for what we lost in the first half,” Aesoph said.
Heelan had the best chances to score the remainder of regulation, but a couple of big saves kept the outcome in doubt.
“We had more chances in the second half that we could have capitalized on but we didn’t,” Charlestin said.
North Polk (16-4) dominated the first half against a Crusader team that seemed to begin the day a step slow.
“We just told the girls ‘it’s who wants it more, don’t let down and keep playing your game,” North Polk head coach Danni Havens said. “This is a real accomplishment for this program.”
The only score of the first half came when Katryn Halterman took a corner kick for North Polk that bended perfectly through the air and into the corner of the net less than eight minutes in.
“We haven’t conceded a corner kick in a long time,” Charlestin said. “Probably the last time was against Davenport Assumption (in the championship game) last year.”
Both teams entered state without giving up a goal in three regional contests, and Heelan had won 14 of its last 15 contests.
Heelan finished the season at 14-4 and extended its all-class record for state appearances to 18. North Polk faces third-seeded Center Point-Urbana in the semifinals Friday.