Being a goalkeeper can be lonely.
Not only can a goalie spend a large portion of the game without another player within 30 yards of them, but as the last line of defense, mistakes are often disproportionately magnified.
That’s the situation Southern Columbia junior Quinn Johnston found herself in Wednesday during a Class 1A state girls soccer semifinal against South Williamsport.
Johnston was solid for the first 30 minutes as the Tigers built a 1-0 lead, but that all changed in a split second. South Williamsport’s Aleigha Rieppel took a free kick from approximately 45 yards away from goal. The ball skipped on the turf and went through Johnston into the net for the tying goal.
“I had some nerves in me definitely,” Johnston said. “I’m a little bit of an anxious person. I went right through my hands. It was a little wet out.”
One lesson Johnston — who has been outstanding this season — learned from former Southern goalkeepers Mackenzie Palacz and Blair Johnston, her older sister, has been not to dwell on the past.
“Blair and Kenzie have always said you’ve just got to keep moving on,” Johnston said. “If you dwell on the past, you’ll never move on. Everything happens in a split second. You’ve got to keep moving forward.”
About four minutes later, Johnston was called into action again, making a diving save to her left on a shot for the most impressive of her eight saves.
“Everyone was picking me up,” Johnston said. “I knew I couldn’t stay down. Then I came right out on (South Williamsport freshman) Ella Moore, and I had it. Ella looked at me and said, ‘That’s it.’ I knew we were going to win.”
Another thing that helped Johnston move on was as soon as the halftime whistle blew, senior captain Emma Genners ran to the keeper.
“Emma said, ‘Get your head out of your butt and keep going,’” Johnston recalled.
“I told her, ‘We just need to forget about it. That stuff happens,’” Genners said. “I just went back there and talked to her. I knew she wasn’t going to forget it. No one is going to. But I told her it was 0-0 now, and we just had to work together.”
Johnston made four saves after halftime, including on another long-distance rip by Rieppel in the first overtime period. When Sophie Shadle scored the game-winning goal in the second overtime, Johnston celebrated with the rest of her teammates.
“I’m OK now,” an emotional Johnston said after the game. “It was a little rough for a minute.”
Johnston stopped eight of the nine shots that she faced from South Williamsport. While the mistake and the incredible diving save might be what stick out in the minds of fans, the routine saves are a big part of why the Tigers are going for their third straight state title today.
“It is absolutely insane,” Johnston said. “To be a part of all three straight is just amazing. The program is just amazing. Everyone works so hard. They all work their butts off.”
Johnston has saved more than 82 percent of the shots she has faced during the state playoffs, a slightly higher percentage than during the regular season.
“Quinn sees everything from her position, and she’s been great for us,” Southern Columbia coach Derek Stine said.