Minnesota girls soccer playoff match has 32-round penalty shootout

True soccer fans often claim to hate shootouts. They hate the tension. They hate the postgame anguish. They hate the arbitrariness. They just hate them. Let's hope all those fans missed Tuesday's Minnesota Class 2A, Section 5 girls soccer championship match between Mounds View and Centennial, which featured a penalty kick shootout that lasted a full 32 rounds. Yes, 32.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, in the 1-0 sectional final win for Mounds View, the goal credited for winning the shootout was the only one of the game after a scoreless regulation. The loss was Centennial's first and only setback of the season, with Mounds View advancing to the state 2A tournament as the representative of Minnesota's Section 5.

The final stats from the shootout were practically beyond belief: Six players from each team were forced to attempt two kicks each. Multiple players begged their respective coaches not to make them attempt a shot. Both goalies eventually took shots on one another. Three players were so nervous they missed the goalmouth entirely. At one point, both teams hit 11 straight shots.

When it was all over, Mounds View emerged victorious after Centennial missed chances to advance on their 10th, 12th, 14th and 20th shots. Both teams hit only three of the initial five attempts, setting off what must be a state-record of 27 rounds of sudden death penalty kicks.

"Did that really just happen?" Centennial coach Ginger Flohaug asked a reporter from the Star-Tribune after the game. "I think a lot of people saw that the better team didn't win. I give credit to Mounds View for playing defense and hoping we didn't score."

Of course, in the shootout the Mustangs could only keep Centennial from scoring with saves from goaltender Natalie Stoltz, pictured above, who wowed in her first ever shootout performance. Since the Cougars held the final shot, Stoltz had to stop all the earlier Centennial attempts that would have won the game, and eventually a dead-on shot from Centennial senior Megan Helberg, a punch save which locked up Mounds View's win.

"Each time we scored, we said, 'That's the one. Now Natalie is going to make the save," Mounds View coach Sharon Swallen, pictured at right, told the Star-Tribune. ...

"This has to go down as one of our best section final victories. When we talk about this game in the future, we'll be able to smile."

Eventually, everyone involved in the marathon will probably reflect with wonder on the event. For now, Flohaug said her players were too despondent to marvel at the lengths across which the match went undecided. The Centennial coach insisted that her team should be proud regardless of an earlier-than-expected exit from the playoffs.

"We were the only Class 2A team to have an unbeaten, untied regular-season record," Flohaug told the Star-Tribune. "They should be proud of that."

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