Crusaders Women Earn Wild Shootout Win

TAMPA, FL - After coming into the game without a starting goalkeeper, then losing multiple players to injury and finishing the game with only nine available players, the Central Florida Crusaders ground out a penalty shootout win, with the game officially finishing 7-6 over the Tampa Bay Strikers. 

Missing their available goalkeepers, Head Coach Tom Traxler turned to former Orlando Pride midfielder Bridget Callahan to mind the net. Through the first quarter, she played a big part in keeping the game scoreless. 

In the second quarter, Tampa would begin to score. Tesa McKibben got the opener for the Strikers early in the second quarter, while Stephanie Delaforcade and Alyssa Williams would score later in the quarter to make it 3-0 Tampa Bay at the half. 

Halfway through the second quarter, Callahan took a hard shot to the boards and was forced out of action for the rest of the game. Mona Rodriguez took her place for the remainder of regulation. 

Midway through the third quarter, the Crusaders would finally find the breakthrough. After earning a free kick, Vanessa Aponte struck the dead ball into the top corner, getting her team back within two. Five minutes later, Aponte would score again. Off a corner kick from Kiara Montenegro, Aponte got the ball on the left side of the field and fired above Tampa keeper Arlena Loss to get the Crusaders within one. 

Into the fourth quarter, Central Florida tied the game up through leading goalscorer Alivia Gonzalez. After a cross-field pass from Grace Raji, Gonzalez took the ball off the wall, volleying it far post and in. 

The Strikers would re-take the lead a few minutes later as McKibben shot the ball towards goal, deflecting off Kayla Gray and in. 

With just under four minutes to go, the Crusaders would equalize again. After Nicole DiPerna forced Loss into a turnover, Briana Solis would capitalize and fire from the yellow line and in, making it 4-4.

Momentum continued for the Crusaders as they would take the lead with just over two minutes to play through Lorna Maudslay. After helping start a counterattack and finding Gonzalez, she was able to get on a rebounded shot and beat the Strikers goalkeeper Loss to put Central Florida in front.

Maudslay would once again be the architect of the Crusaders' next goal, finding Jordan Rowan with just over a minute to go, putting Central Florida up 6-4.

As it looked to be a first victory for the Crusaders, Alyssa Williams would score her second of the game to cut the deficit with under a minute to go, then, after a violation on the Crusaders, Tesa Mckibben would score the equalizer with seconds left to send the game to overtime. 

After a scoreless overtime slate, the game would head to penalties. Still without a true goalkeeper, the Crusaders turned to Alivia Gonzalez to don the gloves for the shootout. Gonzalez would save the first and the Strikers would miss the second, setting up the final frame of penalties.

Nicole DiPerna would step up and score the lone goal of the shootout and Gonzalez would stop McKibben to win the game for Central Florida. 

The Crusaders will now head back home this weekend, hosting the Columbus Rapids on Saturday, March 4 at 7:30 ET.while the Strikers won't play again until March 12 against the Crusaders again.