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Penalty kicks power Centennial past Palo Verde

Centennial goalkeeper Natalie Gilbertson has seen her fair share of penalty-kick shootouts, and experience has taught her one thing.

“They always go left first,” the junior shot-stopper said. “That’s what I’ve learned: They always go left first.”

Gilbertson made six saves in regulation and two overtime periods, then dived left to stop two of four penalty-kick attempts to help the Bulldogs knock off top-ranked Palo Verde 4-2 on penalty kicks Thursday in a Sunset Region semifinal at Bettye Wilson Park.

Centennial (16-3-1) advanced to meet Arbor View (15-2-2) in the Sunset title game at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Centennial and Palo Verde were scoreless after 80 minutes of regulation and two 15-minute overtime periods.

“I’ve lost plenty (of shootouts), and it feels good to win this one,” Gilbertson said. “I wanted to win it for my team … This feels fantastic.”

Gilbertson stopped the first attempt of the shootout, diving left to hold out Tatiana Pagan’s shot and give the Bulldogs the early advantage.

Bethanie Skelton, Gabrielle Romero, Faith Johannes and Dominique Romero each converted a penalty kick for Centennial.

“Stepping up, I knew that I had to make it just to put my team on the board,” said Skelton, who laced a bullet to the bottom left corner for the Bulldogs’ first penalty kick. “I knew if I made it, the pieces would fall into place, and everyone could make theirs, too. I had to take my opportunity for the team, and I did.”

Gilbertson made five saves during regulation, including charging off her line to stuff a breakaway shot by Palo Verde’s Alyssa Kleiner in the 58th minute before following it up with back-to-back saves a minute later.

“When field players see a keeper willing to put it all on the line, that gets them going,” Bulldogs coach Jeremy Gill said.

Stacie Gubler had five saves for Palo Verde (18-3-3) before the shootout, clamping a critical lob shot by Dominique Romero seven minutes before the end of regulation.

“Honestly, I couldn’t have scripted it any better,” Gill said. “We wanted to score and win … but both teams were battling. The crowd, everybody, all the players hurt; it was a freaking battle. That is a great, great team (Palo Verde).”

■ Arbor View 1, Bishop Gorman 0 — Tara LeBaron scored with five minutes left to lift the Aggies.

Amberly Halstead set up the match-winner, stealing the ball near the top of the box and dishing a cross to LeBaron, who redirected it down the middle.

Both teams played with 10 players from the 30th minute, as Gorman’s Haley Wingender and Arbor View’s Tori Rodriguez each received a red card after a scuffle.

Kyla Salazar made four second-half saves to blank the Gaels (15-4-1).


■ Green Valley 3, Tech 1 — After being eliminated in the Sunrise Region semifinals the past two years, the Gators were looking for a breakthrough victory.

That’s exactly what Green Valley found, along with some redemption.

The Gators scored twice in the first 25 minutes en route to a win over Tech in a Sunrise semifinal. Green Valley avenged a 1-0 loss to Tech on Feb. 15.

“It’s something we’ve been working toward all season, to get over that second-round hump that stopped us the last two years,” Gators coach Roy Snyder said. “We really wanted to come out and give ourselves an opportunity to play for a championship. This is an amazing group of kids, and it’s something they really deserve.”

Southeast League champion Green Valley (15-6-1) advanced to meet league rival Coronado (12-4-4) in the region title game at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Kayla Varner and Alyssa Rodriguez scored in the first half to give the Gators a 2-0 lead, but Tech (11-6-3) answered when Rachael Montoya scored her 22nd goal of the season on a breakaway in the 49th minute.

Green Valley, however, all but sealed the win when Londyn Lopez scored on an assist from Cassidy McLean in the 67th minute to take a 3-1 lead.

“The goalie was out of the box. I just kept it low and took a shot,” said Lopez, a junior midfielder. “Our shots were nice and low, because last time they were up in the air and the goalie got every one of them. We controlled everything much better this time.”

■ Coronado 3, Rancho 0 — Breanna Robinson scored twice in the second half to help the two-time defending Sunrise champion Cougars oust the Rams (11-4-5).

Robinson scored in the 45th and 56th minutes to leave little suspense after Breanna McCallum scored midway through the first half for Coronado.

“It’s good to see Breanna Robinson get those goals,” Cougars coach Dana Neel said. “She’s been playing well, and her stats didn’t necessarily support how well she’s been doing.”

Gabrielle Morris, Kathleen Cuevas and Nia Moreno had assists, and Kaitlyn Fahrner posted a two-save shutout.

Coronado will try to improve to 3-0 against Green Valley this season in the Sunrise final. The Cougars won both regular-season meetings 1-0.

The region winners will meet Thursday in the Southern Nevada title game.

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