JAFFREY — One overtime wasn’t enough.
Then a second overtime wasn’t enough.
Five penalty kicks still weren’t enough.
It wasn’t until Trinity goalkeeper Sam Reine — a junior — snuck a penalty kick past Conant’s Garrett Somero in the sixth round of PKs that the Pioneers got the slight edge over the Conant boys soccer team.
Yes, Trinity’s goalkeeper took a penalty kick.
Then Reine made a save on Mason Devost’s penalty kick to seal the 2-1 win for the Pioneers in the quarterfinal round of the NHIAA Division III tournament Friday in Jaffrey.
It’s the second year in a row that Trinity knocked Conant out of the state tournament in the quarterfinal round. The Pioneers went on to win the state title last year.
While Conant sophomore Josh Dipasquale was the hero of the second half — scoring the game-tying goal in the 45th minute — Somero was the hero of the first half for the Orioles.
The 6-foot-5 senior made 10 saves in the first 40 minutes of action, and not many of them were easy saves.
“He’s done that in a handful of games,” said Conant head coach Tom Harvey. “In tougher games, you need to have a good keeper. He is, in my mind, one of the top two or three keepers in the state. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s agile and he’s positive. Always pushing his teammates.”
Somero’s most impressive save came in the 26th minute, when he stopped a penalty kick from Trinity junior Quinn Booth after Booth was tripped in the box.
“I was just thinking, ‘This could be our last game,’ “ Somero said. “I was just fighting for everything. Fighting for these guys.”
Somero did everything he could to keep the game scoreless, but Trinity broke though in the 37th minute after Nathan Shipman — another junior — finally got one of his shots to get through, and the Pioneers took their 1-0 lead into halftime.
Five minutes into the second half, Dipasquale used his speed to get past the defense and hit the equalizer, which jumpstarted an Orioles team that was otherwise being outplayed to that point.
“I saw Noah [Mertzic] barreling down the field,” Dipasquale said. “I was trying to stay as close as possible so if he sent a ball in I could be there, and that’s exactly what happened. He sent it perfectly and it hit my chest and I put it right through his legs.”
Both teams created decent scoring opportunities during the rest of the second half and into the overtime periods, but nobody could cash in from there on out. It would be remiss not to mention the strong defensive play on both sides during that timeframe.
“The boys have been really good about self-critiquing at halftime,” Harvey said. “They get themselves motivated and make the changes they need to make. They understood what was at stake.”
The teams grinded out 20 minutes of extra time, each team playing like they understood the importance of getting that next goal, but it was penalty kicks that ultimately decided a winner.
The first six shooters — three for each team — found the back of the net, with growing intensity from the Conant student section after each shot.
Trinity’s fourth shooter, senior Conor Bosworth, missed the net wide and Conant senior Derrick DeWees scored.
The Orioles were a save away from advancing to the semifinal round.
But Trinity’s Tyler Bike scored on the next kick and Reine made the save on Ethan Vitello’s shot, and once again the teams were even.
Reine made his penalty kick, then the next save sealed it.
“I think for us, it’s so much about our composure,” said Trinity head coach Phil Tuttle. “It’s nerve-racking enough, even if you’re the most composed player in the world, so for us it’s about taking a deep breath. We’ve been working on that for a while, but obviously it’s different come game time.”
Reine — the hero for Trinity — didn’t even get the start in net for Trinity on Friday.
Drew Overy was Trinity’s starting goalie, but left the game in the 23rd minute with a knee injury and Reine played the rest of the game. The two goalies split time throughout this season.
“Sam came in and ended up doing that,” Tuttle said. “Can’t ask for much more. He played really well for us.”
Trinity meets No. 1 Gilford in the semifinals Monday, a rematch of last year’s state final.
Conant ends its season with a 12-3-2 record, a testament to how far the program has come over the last couple of years.
“Look at the two seasons that we had: last year and this year. That has never been done here,” Harvey said. “I’m very proud of them. They had a great season.”
“It’s the best season we’ve ever had at Conant,” Somero said. “Three years ago we weren’t contenders for anything. In that amount of time, we’ve grown as a team and made it [to the quarterfinals] twice. It was just a great season.”
“[This season] was absolutely incredible,” Dipasquale said. “Just being able to play on a team with seniors who fought harder than any other person I’ve ever seen fight in sports, it’s been so much fun. It’s just exciting to do this. I never thought that we’d get here and we did.”