Scoring twice on penalty kicks, including Lauren Ahles’ game-winner in overtime, the Centennial Cougars beat Rosemount 2-1 Monday to earn a shot at the state championship.
The Cougars (18-2) will duel very familiar rival, Maple Grove (17-2-1) for the Class AA crown on Thursday, 3 p.m., back at U.S. Bank Stadium.
After the first 10-minute overtime was a stalemate, Ahles got her chance to win the game 1:52 into the second OT when she fell in the box and officials ruled her foot had been stepped on.
“One, two, three, kick,” Ahles said she told herself, before drilling it past Rosemount goalie Jordan Hecht. It was the sophomore midfielder’s eighth goal of the season.
Madison Monson gave the Cougars a 1-0 lead in the 59th minute, also on a penalty kick. That was the senior midfielder’s seventh goal of the season.
“We didn’t finish when we needed to, which would have kept us out of that trouble in the first place,” Rosemount coach Gretchen Stramel said. “But it’s a tough loss to take when it’s a judgement call.”
Rosemount (17-3-1) kept Khyah Harper, who leads the Cougars with 25 goals, off the scoreboard. The junior forward launched eight of her team’s 15 shots, two of them on goal.
Rosemount’s Lexi Orland tied the score with a goal just a minute after Monson’s. Centennial’s Jenna Lang stopped eight other shots on goal and Hecht made six saves for Rosemount.
Centennial has reached the finals with a pair of second-overtime wins. They beat Lakeville South 2-1 on Harper’s two goals in the quarterfinals.
Three of the four finalists are Northwest Suburban Conference teams. Maple Grove tripped previously-unbeaten, top-seeded Champlin Park 3-0 in the other semifinals. Champlin Park beat Maple Grove 2-1 and Centennial 4-0 in conference. That was Centennial’s last loss; they’ve won 12 in a row since then.
So it will be Centennial and Maple Grove in the state finals after clashing in the section finals the previous five years, with Centennial winning the first three of those and Maple Grove the lat two. They were placed in separate sections this year. Centennial beat the Crimson 2-1 on Sept. 3.
This is Centennial’s seventh state trip, and first since they won the 2016 state championship. It’s Maple Grove’s third state trip, all the in last three years. They were runner-up last year, losing to Eagan 2-1.