Ballarat North United defeated Victoria Park White in a thrilling Ballarat and District Soccer Association preliminary final.
North United won 5-3 as the match went into extra-time.
The two sides went goal for goal for the opening 90 minutes as Victoria Park White’s Sarah Oliver kicked the equalizer at the 87-minute to the devastation of the Ballarat North United outfit.
With the scores level at 3-all, Ballarat North United scored both of its goals in the second 15-minute extra-time period.
North United coach Jim Hocking said it was a tense final half-hour to the game but his nerves were settled following Katelene Cook’s conversion from the spot which gave the side a two-goal advantage with only a few minutes remaining.
“The first (goal in extra-time) had us on the edge of our seats. When the second one went in it calmed the nerves because it was fairly late in the game,” Hocking said.
Hocking delivered a simple but effective message following the opening 90 minutes of play and said his group had shown a great ability to take its game to the next level in the high-pressure moments.
“The message was – the girls on the other team are going to want it just as much as we are so the only way to win the game is to go out harder than them.
“When they’re under the pump they seem to lift their game a little bit. Which tends to lead to situations where the first 15 minutes of the game we’re a bit flat but once it comes push to shove the girls tend to lift.”
The result sets up a rematch of the 2015 grand final against Warrnambool.
Hocking said the pair had developed a great rivalry over the course of the season, playing four times and splitting the ledger at one win apiece and two draws.
“We’re the great rivalry of the season, us two.
“Both sides are evenly matched, it’ll just come down to which team wants it more on the day.”
Captain Leah Cushion was instrumental in the victory, kicking three of the five goals to lead the way.
While in defense, Keely Shepherd and Bridget Plucke were among the best.
In the men’s division one, Ballarat delivered one of the biggest upsets of the season, knocking off minor premier Forest in a thrilling penalty shoot-out to bundle the flag favourites out in straight sets.
Ballarat trailed 1-0 at half-time before drawing level in the 70th minute. The match went into extra-time with neither side able to breakthrough.
In the penalty shoot-out, Forest missed a shot to win the match, which was followed by a Ballarat conversion. Forest’s - looking to stay in the competition - strike hit the post and bounce back into play to the joy of Ballarat.
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