By CONOR NICHOLL
Thomas More Prep-Marian girls’ soccer coach Darryl Wellbrock will remember his 54th birthday for the rest of his life.
On Thursday, the Monarchs delivered the biggest win in program history in a 110-minute classic against Rose Hill that ended with a block on the eighth penalty kick at Bickle/Schmidt Sports Complex.
TMP and Rose Hill were tied 1-1 after regulation and four overtime periods. They were even again, 3-3 after the first round of five penalty kicks in the Class 4-3-2-1A South Central Regional 3 championship.
The squads were tied 4-4 after the sixth and seventh penalty kicks. On the eighth opportunity, TMP’s lone senior, Emily Glover, kicked it high inside the left corner and pumped her fist in celebration. Then, Monarch freshman goalkeeper Deonna Wellbrock, the coach’s daughter, blocked Rocket senior Camille Mitchell’s shot to secure the victory.
The Monarchs will play Tuesday in the state quarterfinals for the first time in program history. Coach Wellbrock had trouble finding words to describe his feelings, while Deonna started crying several times postgame.
“Unbelievable,” Coach Wellbrock said of his young squad that primarily starts freshmen and sophomores. “If I have too many more emotions, my heart can’t take much more of this, I don’t think.”
Sophomore midfielder Racheal Hamel, who assisted on TMP’s lone goal, called the moment “surreal.” Deonna Wellbrock felt “pure happiness” as she started to choke up again. The Monarchs, the No. 3 seed in the regional, moved to 8-2-2, and No. 6 Rose Hill finished at 9-8-1. After the team photo at midfield, TMP sang “Happy Birthday” to their coach.
“I am on cloud nine,” Coach Wellbrock said.
TMP had never defeated Rose Hill in school soccer history. The Monarch boys had lost three times to the Rockets in the playoffs, games that Darryl Wellbrock and TMP assistant coaches Shawn and Nathan Lawson were part of as coaches or players.
“It was really nice,” Deonna said. “Because I know it frustrated my brother (former TMP standout Darren). It feels good.”
On Wednesday, Deonna guessed the playoff game would go to penalty kicks. She had studied some of Rose Hill’s games and believed it was going to be close.
“I have worked really hard for it,” she said. “We have worked really hard for it. I wouldn’t want it to go any other way. It was so much fun. I knew that’s how it was going to turn out.”
TMP took a 1-0 lead with a goal in the 25th minute. Hamel, on the right side, delivered a great cross that sophomore Annaka Applequist kicked in with her left foot from about 7 yards out for her sixth goal of the season.
“I remember beating the girl on the side, crossing it and just praying that somebody was there to finish it,” Hamel said. “I was just like, ‘Somebody please be there.’ I usually try to place it more in the middle, because that’s usually where we have more girls at.”
TMP, which has played on grass virtually all year, outplayed Rose Hill in the first half. The Rockets had played on turf throughout the spring.
“We lost it in the first half,” Rose Hill coach Mike Terrell said. “They outplayed us in the first half. We didn’t get our passing down. The field — definitely their advantage. It just played as a bigger field. We are not used to it.”
Rose Hill tied the game early in the second half, in the 43rd minute, when senior Emily Terrell’s shot hit the crossbar and bounced down and then out. At first, the officials debated whether the ball crossed the goal line, but then ruled it a goal.
Both Wellbrocks were unsure, but thought the ball didn’t cross the line; a cameraman standing by the net later told Coach Wellbrock the ball crossed.
“That’s the game,” coach Wellbrock said. “You just play.”
Both teams had several other chances, including a shot high from sophomore Bailey Hageman in the first half and two strong crosses from Hageman.
Rose Hill had a set piece near TMP’s goal off a handball in overtime and had a good opportunity in one of the extra periods when Wellbrock came off her line to try to get the ball amidst several players. Briefly the ball was loose, but Wellbrock corralled it before Rose Hill could get a quality shot.
“We got acclimated,” Terrell said. “I think we outplayed them in the second half and through overtime. I think we had way more opportunities, made their goalie work a little bit.”
Rose Hill nearly won in the first round of five penalty kicks. After four kicks, the teams were tied at three apiece.
On Wednesday, the Monarchs determined their penalty kick lineup and had sophomore defender Tyra Younie, a team captain, fifth and sophomore midfielder Kelsie DeWitt sixth.
But Younie suffered an ankle injury in the 76th minute and couldn’t kick, so DeWitt moved up a spot. Rose Hill junior goalkeeper Meredith Bartley saved DeWitt’s kick, giving the Rockets the final shot for the win. Wellbrock guessed right side, and freshman Alyssa Knaak kicked the ball left.
“My body was going the other way because that’s where I read her hips, but luckily it went up,” Wellbrock said.
The ball clanged off the crossbar and stayed out of the net, giving TMP another chance.
“We didn’t really want to look,” Hamel said. “The sound of that bar just made it 10 times better.”
“We knew that were still in it,” freshman midfielder Megan Koenigsman added.
The second round of penalty kicks is sudden death. Both teams failed to score on the sixth attempt, while Hageman and Rose Hill senior Haley Canfield scored on the seventh attempt.
Glover, a transfer student from Denver who had mainly played junior varsity this season and hadn’t scored a goal, was the next shooter.
Glover honed her shot through Coach Wellbrock’s “PK perfecter.” It’s a net he puts in front of the goal with holes in various places signifying the best spots to shoot a PK.
Glover was “pretty nervous” and was “very surprised” when the shot went in the net.
“I always hated it all season,” Glover said of the practice net. “But then I just imagined it up there, and that’s the spot that I usually aim for with the PK perfecter.”
After Deonna Wellbrock saved Mitchell’s shot, she immediately sprinted to her teammates and first hugged Hageman as the team dogpiled near midfield. In the photo, Deonna Wellbrock was in the front and one of the Monarchs holding the trophy. Several times, Deonna pulled her hand off the trophy to wipe away tears.
Her dad stood a few feet away, smiling. Including club ranks, he had coached the majority of the girls for 10 years, delivered a massive turnaround and now celebrated his birthday in a memorable way.