GIRLS SOCCER: Molini's extra-time PK sends Oologah to 4A state title game

May 8—OOLOGAH — Layney Molini saw a gap and went for it.

The Oklahoma Christian School defense had a hard time containing the Texas Tech commit's acceleration and skill, with her cut toward the inside of the penalty area forcing the defender to find a way to slow Molini down. That effort drew a foul in the box, leading to a penalty kick with just under seven minutes remaining in the second half of extra time.

The junior fixated on the goal, then surged forward with purpose and directed the ball toward the bottom left corner. Lady Saints goalkeeper Lily Pomeroy nearly made the save, reading Molini's intentions perfectly, but the sheer power behind the strike prevailed and found its mark in the back of the net.

Molini's PK with 6:49 remaining in extra time served as the "golden goal" for Oologah, resulting in a 3-2 victory over OCS in the Class 4A state semifinals Tuesday night at Mustangs Stadium. The Lady Mustangs will play Weatherford for the state title at 8 p.m. Friday at Taft Stadium in Oklahoma City.

"I took most of the (penalty kicks) this season, so I knew I was going to take it," Molini said. "I wanted that pressure on my back — I wanted it to be up to me. I trust myself. When it gets down to the wire, I tend to get super focused. That's when it starts kicking in and everything starts happening. I've been in a lot of situations like that, so I didn't necessarily feel scared or anything. Club ball prepares you for a lot of these moments in high school."

Molini typically relies on instinct in moments like these, selecting a spot as soon as she knows she is taking a PK. This time was no different.

With her college aspirations in mind, Molini said she knows the importance of keeping her opponents guessing. She has practiced going in different directions, preparing for the challenges she could face at the collegiate level as a Red Raider in Lubbock, Texas.

"I have had to take two PK's in one game, so it also throws the goalie off," Molini said of the strategy's benefits. "I don't want people to be able to watch film and know where I'm going to go. My mind decides as soon as I think I'm taking a PK, and I pick that side and don't switch no matter what."

Reflecting on the moment afterward, Molini admitted she was nervous when she saw the ball make contact with Pomeroy's hands.

However, she felt a sense of relief when she saw the ball cross the goal line.

Facing off against a friend added an extra layer of complexity to the match, for Molini and Pomeroy have played on the same club soccer team in the past. Molini acknowledged the competitive atmosphere but also recognized the bittersweet nature of her victory.

Despite the personal connection, she understood that in the heat of competition, she had to do what was necessary to secure the win.

"The goalie did a great job — she read exactly where I was going to go, so credit to her," Molini said. "It hit off her hands, but I just hit it hard enough to the point where it still went in. I was nervous. I saw it hit her hands, and I was like, 'Crap.' But at the end, it went in. I'm not going to complain about how it went in as long as it went in the goal.

"I've known her personally, so we definitely had that rivalry going. It sucks that I had to end it that way for her, but you gotta do what you gotta do."

Before Molini's game-winning PK, the match was a whirlwind of excitement and tension for players and spectators alike.

Oologah (16-2) dominated possession and controlled the pace of the game, unleashing a barrage of six shots on target. Led by Molini's relentless attacks, the Lady Mustangs kept the OCS defense under constant pressure.

However, despite their efforts, the teams entered halftime deadlocked at a scoreless draw.

The second half saw a shift in momentum as the Lady Saints came out with renewed determination, pushing forward aggressively.

Their persistence paid off when Sheridan Piercey broke the deadlock with a goal at the 25:12 mark, putting Oologah on the back foot for the first time since its 2-1 loss to Owasso JV on March 14.

However, the Lady Mustangs responded within two minutes of falling behind, with Molini slotting home a precise finish after an assist from Mackenzie Kubien, leveling the score once again with 23:10 remaining.

"I just really don't like being down — it scares me a little bit," Molini said. "Their goal went in, and I was like, 'OK, it's go time.' I was trying hard before that, but that gear really kicks in when you see this could be our last game; this could be the last moment that I play. That's not what I wanted, so I was like, 'OK, I'm going to go score.' And that's what I did."

Oologah continued to press forward, and their efforts were rewarded when Kailee Seaba capitalized on a sublime through ball from Sage Duff, giving the Lady Mustangs a 2-1 lead with just over 16 minutes remaining.

However, the drama was far from over as OCS refused to back down. Piercey struck again, finding the back of the net to equalize the score at the 7:33 mark and send the game into extra time.

"I just felt at times we made a few mistakes, and I told them if you make a mistake against good teams, they're going to make you pay," said Oologah coach Sam Bowers, who will be coaching in his fifth state championship game. "But we were always able to come back. When you're up 2-1 and give up a goal with seven minutes left ... at that moment, I was ready to get to overtime. I told them in the huddle, 'Look around, somebody in this huddle is going to be a hero.'"

Despite the intense battle, Oologah emerged victorious to secure a spot in the championship match against Weatherford. Both teams will be vying for their first girls soccer state title, setting the stage for an electrifying showdown between two formidable opponents.

Notably, the Lady Eagles fell to the Lady Saints 2-1 in extra time on April 18.

"It's something that I've wanted for a really long time," Molini said of playing for a state championship. "Growing up playing soccer, you look up to the high school girls, and you're like, 'Wow, I want to go win a ring.' It's something you can't really do in club, so I'm really excited.

"I think we're going to go out and get the dub."