Larry Cruikshank / Special to the Home News
Monday, March 9, 2009 | 7:37 p.m.
The Centennial girls' soccer team had the kind of second chance few teams get. Senior Julie Owens wanted to make the most of that opportunity.
With the girls' Sunset Regional championship on the line against Bishop Gorman, Owens led the Bulldogs with a pair of goals, defeating Gorman 2-0 at Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex and returning the Bulldogs to the Southern Nevada State Championship for the second consecutive season.
"(The second chance) gave us more motivation to win," Owens said. "It gave us more of a drive to win."
On a windy afternoon, Owens' first goal came off a free kick midway through the first half. With the wind at her back, she delivered a powerful kick that went in just below the crossbar, giving the Bulldogs a lead they would fight to keep for the rest of the contest.
"That was a perfect shot," Gorman head coach Lora Feely said. "There's not much you can do about that."
Owens' second goal came in a more controversial fashion. With only about five minutes left in the game, the officials awarded Centennial a penalty shot.
The Gorman bench objected to the call, and so did Gaels goalkeeper Alex Holland, who came out of the goalie's box to voice her concerns with the referee. The referee responded by giving Holland a red card and ejecting her from the game.
Owens then made the penalty kick, giving her team the 2-0 lead.
"After I made that I knew we had won the game," Owens said.
In a confusing and controversial Sunset Regional tournament, Centennial's victory comes 10 days after it had lost 3-0 to Arbor View in the regional semifinals. Arbor View and Shadow Ridge were set to meet in the Regional championship, but the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association determined Shadow Ridge had used an ineligible player, and ordered the tournament be replayed.
"It's a second lifeline," Centennial head coach Emmanuel Ayim said. "If you're thrown a lifeline, you're going to use it."
After taking a 1-0 lead into halftime, the Bulldogs fought to stay on top in the second half. Gorman had several chances to score, but could never finish the job. Sophomore Gretchen Mikulich notched the shutout for Centennial.
The Gaels outshot Centennial, but never capitalized on opportunities close to the goal.
"We were so close we could almost taste it," Feely said. "We were knocking down on their door 80 percent of the second half."
Now Centennial has its sights set on another state championship. The Bulldogs will match up against Sunrise Regional champion Coronado on Wednesday.
"I'm excited, yes, but I try not to get too excited," Centennial head coach Emmanuel Ayim said. "We still have another level to go."
Garrett Downing can be reached at email@example.com or 948-7803