Karli Rucker didn't want the game to go to penalty kicks.
Her North Scott Lancers hadn't fared well in the shootout this year, with four of their last five losses coming after 100 minutes of exertion. With the clock winding down Monday against Pleasant Valley, it looked like a certainty the Lancers' fate would once again come down to the luck of the PK.
Instead, Rucker ended it in the 98th minute, firing a free kick that caught the Spartans off-guard, and put the ball into the net from about 15 yards out on a quick restart at Spartan Stadium.
A Pleasant Valley player was down on the turf, but play was never stopped and the goal stood for a 2-1 North Scott victory.
"A set piece is a set piece and everyone plays it that way," Rucker said. "I just thought, the end of the second overtime, everyone's tired and I caught them on their heels, just trying to find a mark and that was the perfect opportunity for me to put it in the back of the net."
"That's kind of the worst way to lose because you played all those minutes to not win," Rucker said of the recent string of shootout games. "We needed to get it done."
Rucker's hastiness came somewhat at the behest of teammate Savannah Bogner, who remembered a similar situation in a win earlier this season against Assumption.
"I got fouled right outside the 18, (head coach Dion Ayers) told me to go quick quick quick. That time I took a quick shot off and it was wide open but I hit it off the post," Bogner said. "I kind of had a déjà vu moment when I saw that foul happen right outside and Karli was standing there with the ball right at the spot of the foul so I knew she should go quick."
The win keeps the Lancers tied with Bettendorf atop the MAC standings, a half-game ahead of Assumption. The Lancers can clinch at least a share of their first conference title since 2009 next Monday with a win over Burlington, and the potential to clinch it outright is still in play.
The win may also serve as something of a reset button with the postseason looming. Despite still being ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, the Lancers (9-6, 7-1) had lost five of their last seven matches entering Monday, despite giving up just three goals during that span.
"Math-wise, that's not right," Ayers said. "There was some urgency there, deep down you know the girls didn't want to go to PKs.
"It was important to step on the field and just get some confidence going for us."
Bogner scored the first goal of the match, burying a rebound of a shot from Rucker in the 42nd minute. Pleasant Valley's Ellie Kurth answered in the 55th minute with a goal, her 99th of her career, showcasing the ebbs and flows of the even match.
Coming off a 3-0 weekend at the Waverly-Shell Rock Tournament, this setback is another tough one for the Spartans (10-6, 5-3), who had several chances throughout the match, but couldn't find the back of the net.
"I have no words of wisdom in my 40-plus years of playing this game, I have nothing to say to them that is going to make them feel any better," PV head coach Wayne Ward said. "We're trying to find out who on the team ran over a black cat, because somebody must have because (our chances) aren't connecting. We're hoping, if good luck and bad luck is of equal balances, we won't even have to play, they'll kick it in their own goal."