Two years, 30 days.
A string of 35 straight defeats since beating Missouri Valley 2-0 in the first match of the 2012 season on April 2.
Seven of those losses were by the slimmest of margins — scores of 1-0 or 2-1 to opponents such as Chariton, Atlantic, Carroll Kuemper (this year) and Oakland Riverside.
A half-dozen of the losses were routs of 10-0 or 8-0 to state powers such as Lewis Central, Harlan, Winterset and Nodaway Valley/West Central Valley/Adair-Casey.
But through it all, one thing never vanished from the Creston girls soccer program.
A positive spirit permeated every time the Panthers took the field, without ever tasting victory through those 760 days.
All that pent-up emotion waiting to be unleashed when that victorious day would come was finally witnessed by the loyal faithful Friday night at Panther Field.
Forward Savannah Hartman, who had tied the match 1-1 in the first half on a hard penalty kick to the left corner of the net, took a pass down the left sideline with under four minutes left in the first overtime period against Riverside.
She changed direction quickly, scooted the ball to her right and uncorked an angled shot past the Riverside goalkeeper to the right side of the net.
Suddenly, the streak was over. As the scoreboard flashed “Panthers 2, Bulldogs 1” bedlam ensued on the turf that had just experienced 87 minutes of soccer without a resolution.
“I wish I knew,” said an emotional Hartman, when asked the details of the winning play. “It’s all kind of a blur. It (the ball) got sent. And I shot, right where I wanted it. Then all I remember is screaming and praising the Lord!”
Teammates flocked around the Panther junior in celebration. Then the team turned to its fans in the bleachers and applauded their support. Smiles were everywhere.
“I didn’t really want to go into overtime, but I was thankful for the outcome,” said Creston coach Kim Lauffer, also tasting her first varsity victory in her second season as head coach.
Lauffer was an assistant under Shawn Miller, who resigned to take a position at OA-BCIG (Ida Grove) after the 2012 season. In Miller’s final year at the helm, the Panthers opened the season with a 2-0 victory over Missouri Valley. Then came 16 straight defeats, including three by one goal.
Last year the Panthers were 0-12, and this season began with seven straight losses — including a 1-0 setback to Kuemper Catholic — before Friday’s triumph.
Friday’s match had a competitive tone from the start, despite the fact Riverside came in 2-5 with wins over AvoHa and Treynor.
While waiting to enter as a substitute, senior Ryan Vasquez turned to an observer and said, “this match is intense!”
Indeed, both defenses were stalwart throughout the evening. Riverside managed just one goal on 19 shots (12 on goal) while the Panther attack had 21 shots (16 on goal).
“Toward the end of the first half, and the rest of the game, we started playing with more urgency,” Lauffer said. “We slowed down a little bit in the last 15 minutes, with some fatigue, but they kept up the intensity of the game.”
Lauffer said watching Hartman’s winning goal from the sideline was a thing of beauty. Prior to that, so many scrambles in front of the Bulldog net had come up empty.
“It got poked out to her and she was able to hit the shot,” Lauffer said. “It was a beautiful shot.”
For this victory to happen, sophomore Becca Ross had to continue showing progress as goalkeeper, as senior veteran Sadie Jones was worked into the field lineup recently to inject some energy into the midfield attack.
“Becca really stepped up,” Lauffer said. “She started diving and sliding for the ball. She has improved significantly in the last two games.”
Directly in front of her, defenders such as Hanna Luther, Maddie Travis and Alyssa Higgins scrambled repeatedly against Riverside runs. The Panther defense seemed to play with a determined desperation, repeatedly clearing threats away from the scoring zone.
Jenna Hayes, Michelle Powers, Katie Powers, Shelby Palser, Itzayanna Rubio and Angelica Claytor patrolled the midfield and kept the ball in Creston’s scoring side of the field a majority of the final 50 minutes. Hartman and Toni VanScoy were the primary forwards.
Hartman had a team-high nine shots (seven on goal) and Jones was next with three shots on goal. Ross finished with 11 saves.
The celebration was short-lived, and there was no opportunity to practice before the next match tonight at home against Chariton. The Panthers lost 3-0 at Chariton on April 22.
During the losing streak, two of the defeats were 1-0 to Chariton and another was 2-1. Lauffer would like nothing more than a two-match winning streak to develop tonight. Varsity kickoff is 6:30 p.m.
“I really hope we can take this momentum and keep going,” Lauffer said.
Riverside scored all of its goals in the first 15-minute half of the JV contest Friday in a 3-0 victory.
Creston had four shots, including three on goal. Megan Wilker had two shots (one on goal). Shelby Palser and Angelica Claytor each had one shot on goal. Livi Hartman had five saves.
Creston 2, Riverside 1 OT
Creston (2) — Savannah Hartman penalty kick, 29:53 first half; Hartman 3:17 overtime. Shots (on goal) — 21 (16 on goal). Individual shots (on goal)— Savannah Hartman 9 (7 on goal), Sadie Jones 3 (3), Michelle Powers 2 (1), Hanna Luther 2 (1), Maddie Travis 2 (2), Jenna Hayes 1, Toni VanScoy 1 (1), Shelby Palser 1. Keeper saves — Becca Ross 11. Cards — None.
Riverside (1) — Grace Gleaves 33:01 first half. Shots (on goal) — 19 (12 on goal). Saves — 13. Cards — None.