Ott's heroics lift Moorpark to CIF-State Division III SoCal regional championship
Emma Ott played her way through a goalkeeper’s worst nightmare.
And found her way into a redemptive plot too dreamy for a studio production.
After making the mistake that prolonged the match in the final seconds of regulation, the senior goalkeeper made four saves in the decisive penalty kick shootout as the Moorpark High girls soccer team won the CIF-State Division III Southern California regional championship Saturday night.
“I knew it was my fault,” Ott said. “But to be able to make up for it and have the will to keep going and to keep fighting for my team … it’s absolutely amazing.”
The Musketeers won the epic 14-round penalty kick shootout, 11-10, after a 1-1 tie with visiting Huntington Beach-Marina.
“That was crazy,” Moorpark sophomore Zaina Barakat said. “We should have won it in the second half, but I think it turned out perfectly, to be honest.”
It was unforgettable. Three times Marina players trotted to the penalty spot looking to clinch the title. Three times Ott — encouraged by a large home crowd chanting “Em-ma!” — made the save to prolong the match.
“It makes you feel so great,” Ott said.
Gabriela Beauchemin, Gianna Foss, Kamryn Beaver and Zaina Barakat made two spotkicks for Moorpark during the shootout. Naomi Tobias, Brielle Bickham and — yes — Ott made one apiece.
“I think taking it was the hardest part,” Ott said. “I found out that I was going to be the 10th player (to attempt a PK) and that’s when the tears started to fall.”
After Barakat converted to give Moorpark a 11-10 lead in the shootout, Ott shuffled right, dove toward the ground and caught the final PK in her hands.
“That (save) will forever for the rest of my life be my favorite,” Ott said.
The win puts Moorpark on a pedestal previously reserved for its 2017 team, which also won matching CIF-Southern Section and CIF-State titles.
“From start to finish, they grinded everything out,” head coach Mike Alexander said. “They didn’t make things easy for us, but they had a burning desire to go after it for their teammates. Their desire to never quit is something I’ll never forget.”
Moorpark had just beaten Marina, 2-1 in overtime on Barakat’s golden goal, in last week’s CIF-SS Division 3 final at Long Beach City College.
Their second final in seven days started similarly. Moorpark dominated the opening half-hour, taking the lead when Barakat’s corner kick flew directly into the top corner of the Marina net in the seventh minute.
“I was hoping for us to crash in, but then it just hit a top corner,” Barakat. “So I was like ‘Oh, OK!’ ”
Already without physical freshman forward Linnea Peltonen and midfielder Lizzeth Meza due to injuries, Moorpark was also without sophomore fullback Ella Navarrete, who was sent off in the regional semifinal win over Bishop Amat.
When junior Kaitlyn Beaver was injured in the second half, the Musketeers were left to defend a 1-0 lead without half its starting defense.
The lead lasted until the final seconds of regulation, when Marina extended the game on a dipping 30-yard free kick.
“It was my fault and I knew it,” Ott said.
The ball hopped through Ott’s hands, glanced off her shoulder and into the net.
“I’m just glad she was able to get her composure and come back the way she did,” Alexander said.
In the break before the 15-minute overtime, Alexander worked to refocus his team.
“The girls are all bawling,” Alexander said. “You were trying to get them under control and get their minds on OT.”
When penalty kicks arrived, Alexander had confidence in Ott. She had won two decisive shootouts in the sectional playoffs, including the semifinal against Irvine-Portola under similar circumstances.
Moorpark advanced four times during the postseason after being pushed into overtime by conceding an equalizer.
“I told the team, ‘Emma will make a save or two,’ ” Alexander said. “Not thinking she’d make four. She made them when she needed to make them. That was the best part.”
Nearly every Moorpark player had a role during the shootout. Central defender Brielle Bickham hadn’t attempted a PK in a match in more than a decade.
“I’m used to hitting long balls,” Bickham joked. “I was surprised that I made it. But we practiced them every practice and it paid off.”
After making the final save, Ott collapsed in the 6-yard box overcome with emotion, as the home stands spilled onto the field.
Her postgame interview was repeatedly interrupted by a legion of newfound fans, from a young girl looking for a her idol to the parents of teammates to a classmate she had never met.
“I don’t know you and you don’t know me,” one classmate said, “but you did amazing.”
Ott was handed flowers. A lei was placed around her head. And then, fittingly, she was handed the championship plaque to lift in celebration.
Joe Curley covers soccer for The Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more coverage, follow @vcspreps on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
This article originally appeared on Ventura County Star: Ott's heroics lift Moorpark to CIF-State Division III regional title