(Oct. 24, 2014) “BEST BIRTHDAY EVER” is what Stephen Decatur senior Jillian Petito tweeted Tuesday night after she scored four goals – the last was the game-winner in overtime – to bring the Bayside Conference championship title back to the school after 11 years.
“It’s the best feeling in the world. I could not have done it without the help and support of my teammates,” the now 17-year-old said. “I feel that as one of the team captains it is our responsibility to be leaders on the team and to encourage everyone to play their best. Every single person contributed to our victory.”
The last time Decatur competed for and won a Bayside title was in 2003 under the direction of Coach Amy Fenzel-Mergott.
After going 11-0-1 during the regular season, the Lady Seahawks, led by first-year Coach Maggie Berke, earned a spot in the conference championship game as the top Bayside South team.
They met the Queen Anne’s Lions, the No. 1 North team, at Wicomico County Stadium in Salisbury.
Queen Anne’s got on the board first. Around the 23-minute mark, Petito answered. With about 12 minutes left in the first half, Petito gave Decatur a 2-1 lead.
The Lions netted a shot and made it 2-2 before the halftime break.
Decatur junior goalie Lexi Gausepohl came up with several big saves at the start of the second half to keep the game even, but with just under 25 minutes on the clock, Queen Anne’s put one by her. She finished the game with 16 saves.
Less than two minutes later, sophomore Brigitte Ardis netted the equalizer. Petito tallied her third goal a minute after and the Seahawks led 4-3 with 22 minutes remaining.
The Lions tied it 4-4 with about four minutes on the clock and the game headed into overtime.
Before the extra period, Berke said she and the Seahawks talked about what has been motivating them, especially in the past few weeks, to “do it for the banner.”
“They were pumped up and ready to get the game over with,” she said.
Two minutes and 16 seconds into the sudden-death extra period, the birthday girl tallied her fourth goal to give Decatur a 5-4 victory.
“I felt so relieved that all of our team’s hard work and effort had paid off. It was truly the most awesome feeling,” Petito said. “We all really wanted this win and the fact that we did it together shows our team unity… This is a huge boost to everyone’s confidence. It was a hard-fought game against a very good team and we are so grateful to have come up on top.”
“[This was] probably her best game all season,” Berke said of Petito’s performance. “She capitalized on so many mistakes [Queen Anne’s] made. That was the game changer.”
Berke said the Seahawks standing on the sideline sprinted onto the field to celebrate with Petito and their teammates after she scored the goal.
“There was tons of excitement, screaming and yelling,” she said. “I thought we played good; some girls had phenomenal games.”
Decatur received the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in Section I of the 3A South Regional tournament. The Seahawks will play the winner of today’s match-up between the No. 4 James M. Bennett Clippers and No. 5 Northeast (AA) Eagles on Monday at 4 p.m. in Berlin.
“The girls are pumped they’re still undefeated going into playoffs,” Berke said. “If they’re ready and willing, they can do amazing things.”