Clutch plays from Caroline Dishner and goalkeeper Madison Grizzle pulled the Lady Blue Devils through.
Dishner’s final goal in a penalty kick shootout followed by Grizzle’s stop on a Taylor Gentry attempt secured the victory for Gate City — 1-0, 4-3 on penalty kicks.
“It really came down to luck,” said Gate City coach Mary Beth Vaughn, whose team clinched a berth in the state tournament by reaching the regional final. “Our goalie has nerves of steel. I couldn’t imagine being her in that situation.
“It feels good to get back to state. This will be my first tournament as head coach, so that is special.”
The match was scoreless at the end of regulation and at the end of each of the subsequent four overtime periods.
The shootout was best of five in the first round. Callie McMurray and Dishner each recorded goals but no one else for Gate City. Central’s Sarah Livingston and Lauren Mulkey countered with goals, leaving the teams even at the end of the first round.
The match went to a shot-for-shot round. McMurray stepped up again and buried one in the back of the net to give Gate City the advantage, but once again Livingston countered.
After Dishner stepped up and nailed her second shot to give the Lady Blue Devils the advantage, the pressure was on Grizzle.
She stopped Gentry’s kick cold and preserved the win.
“I’m so proud of this group. All season we knew that Gate City was the standard in the district and we played them so close both times in the regular season,” Central coach Matthew Mullins said. “It took them eight penalty shots to beat us this time.
“It’s bittersweet to come this close and fall short,” Mullins added. “A lot of people didn’t think we could do it, but they worked hard all season and nearly accomplished the goal we set of making state at the beginning of the season.”
The Lady Blue Devils advanced to the regional final against Richlands on Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Ernie Hicks Stadium. The Blue Tornado stymied John Battle 5-0 in Tuesday’s other semifinal.