Holly Springs senior Bailey Ulm lost her nervousness almost immediately after hearing her teammate, junior Nikkie DeBardelaben, screaming in pain.
With DeBardelaben out just seven minutes into the game with injury, Ulm had to play goalkeeper in her team’s biggest game of the year, a showdown with fellow unbeaten Panther Creek.
Before this season, Ulm hadn’t played goalkeeper since the fourth grade.
But it was her play that kept the Golden Hawks, as well as nationally ranked visiting Panther Creek, still unbeaten on the year. The teams tied 1-1 Wednesday night.
“Once I saw her go down I said, ‘Oh no, I’m going in.’ But warming up I got pretty set,” Ulm said.
“That was incredible,” Holly Springs coach Brian Miller said of Ulm’s performance.
Ulm had come to Miller in the fall after not playing soccer since her freshman year. She wanted to help wherever she could, and there was a void at backup goalkeeper.
“It was a whim,” Ulm said.
Panther Creek (8-0-1, 4-0-1), which entered the national rankings this week at No. 47, trailed for the first time all season after Holly Springs went up in the 12th minute.
Holly Springs (6-0-2, 2-0-1) struck first as Abby Sanders collected a short clear and found Kathryn Vollrath by herself, onside very close to the box.
Vollrath received Sanders’ through ball, took a few steps and found the side netting for the goal.
“It was a collision on my two backs, and nine times out of 10 you won’t see that. They just collided and went right to her foot,” Panther Creek coach David Grant said.
Panther Creek had to respond, and it saved its best in the second half.
Although Ulm and those who played along the back line in front of her – Olivia Bloom, Jennie Lugten, Ellis Fitzhugh, Keli Hayes and Alyssa Poth – denied the Catamounts a goal in the run of play, Panther Creek drew a penalty kick with just 1:19 to play.
While being defended, Panther Creek’s Justine James took a shot that was deflected off a Holly Springs player’s arm. Miller said the official told him the penalty was given for a push in the box, while Grant thought it was a handball that was called.
“Some might say we got lucky, but we were aggressive and good things happen when you’re aggressive,” Grant said.
Briana Velasquez stepped up to take the penalty, made it and sent the game into overtime.
In overtime, Holly Springs nearly had the game-winner on a few counter-attacks, but each one unraveled in the final steps.
“I’m happy with how we reacted to (the penalty) and played in overtime,” Miller said. “Our girls are just class acts.”
The Golden Hawks have a game with Cary on Thursday before heading into spring break. Panther Creek is done until after the break, but Grant hopes his team can come back with better finishing on its scoring chances.
“It’s going to take a little time, and it’s going to come around,” Grant said. “But I’ll take that if I’m OK in the back line.”
Holly Springs learned after the game that DeBardelaben suffered a broken fibula, and Ulm is the Hawks’ starter the rest of the way.
“I’m 75 percent confident because I have never played,” Ulm said. “Coming off this tie is pretty good, but we can do better – I can do better.”