Brown-out: Penalty save helps Polk County to playoff victory

The moment seemed big, maybe too big for a first-year guard.

But not for Cate Brown, because she had a plan.

“I have a pretty good strategy,” Brown said.

Polk County needed it too. The Wolverines clung to a 3-1 second-half lead as Gray Stone Day looked more precarious with every step the Knights’ Cambell Bullard took toward the penalty spot. Gray Stone had just scored two minutes earlier; now Bullard was preparing for a penalty to bring the Knights even closer.

Except Cate Brown had a plan.

Bullard sent a rolling shot low towards the left post. Brown batted the ball there, deflecting it harmlessly out of bounds. Polk County’s defense cleared the ensuing corner, the Wolverines scored twice more in the final 11 minutes and Polk was able to begin planning for Monday’s third round with its 5-1 victory.

The Wolverines (13-4-3) will host Thomas Jefferson (13-3) in this game, Polk’s first trip to the third round since 2019.

That’s no small thank you to Cate Brown and her plan.

“The penalty was the big momentum shifter,” Polk County head coach Lennox Charles said. “(GSD head coach Scott Wolfe) said the same thing. He said as soon as it didn’t happen, he said most of their girls were like ohhh. And our girls (celebrate), they hug Cate.

“Cate made the play, and then we got back together, and I thought after that we really took over the game. Once we scored the fourth, you knew it was pretty much over.

Polk County defender Mia Wolfe deflects a ball from Gray Stone Day’s Ella Wilson during the second half of Thursday’s second-round playoff game.

The Wolverines controlled the flow of the game early, but didn’t score until midway through the first half when Charley Dusenbury centered a pass to Elena Carroll, who redirected it to Gabby Savaia, who was standing alone between two defenders.

Savaia collected the pass, ran toward the penalty area and slipped a shot just inside the right post, giving Polk a 1-0 lead in the 20th minute.

The gap remained there until the 36th minute, when Caroline Taylor collected a loose ball in the Knights half and dribbled past three GSD defenders, driving almost to the six-yard line before also shooting on the right side. from the net, his solo effort doubling the Wolverines’ lead.

Taylor helped set up Polk’s third goal early in the second half, pushing down the right wing and hitting a cross to Hayden Blackwell. A GSD defender knocked Blackwell off the ball, but another knocked the ball back to him near the six, and Blackwell quickly sent a shot into the net to give Polk a 3-0 lead.

Savaia and Taylor both had great chances to score in the next few minutes, and the Wolverines seemed to be rolling until GSD’s Anna Morgan fended off a Polk defender and got a point-blank shot past Brown in the 53rd minute .

The Knights looked set to score again moments later, only to see Brown turn away the chance. Kylie Lewis made it 4-1 for Polk in the 69th minute and Dusenbury closed out the scoring with a goal in the final minute.

“I thought it should have been over before they got the penalty,” Charles said. “So it really shouldn’t have added that much because we should have scored two more goals before that.

“But you’re not going to score them all, and it’s a good experience for us. You go into the playoffs and you see all kinds of things happening. So we get to Monday and if something bad happens, you say, hey, we’ve been there and we just need to buckle up and get back to playing.

They will have the opportunity thanks in part to the plan that Cate Brown had developed and executed.

“It’s a huge victory,” she said. “I was super nervous in the first half, but it feels so good to win.”

Polk County players smother Hayden Blackwell after his goal in the second half of Thursday’s game