INWOOD - If this soccer thing doesn't work out for Haelly Ramirez, her audition went well to play the part of Baby New Year.
Talk about timing.
The Washington Patriots sophomore reentered the game with 14:30 remaining and announced her arrival with a play that led to the only goal in Washington's 1-0 victory over Elkins in the Class AAA, Region II championship game Tuesday at Musselman.
Photo by Ron Agnir/Ogden Newspapers
Washington’s Haelly Ramirez (27) leaps above Elkins’ Grace Lindsay (20) to head a corner kick on goal that was eventually kicked in by teammate Olivia Dominiski in the Class AAA, Region II title game Tuesday night in Inwood.
And, yes, Ramirez made it a new year for the Patriots.
Washington was playing in its third straight regional championship, but it's the first time the Patriots won the title to advance to Beckley for next week's state final four. They'll play George Washington, a 4-3 winner on penalty kicks over Woodrow Wilson.
"We've worked really hard, and it paid off," Ramirez said. "It's so exciting. I'm very proud of my team."
Ramirez headed Stephanie DeLawder's corner kick to goalkeeper Charlie George, who stopped the shot. The ball slipped away, and Washington freshman Olivia Dominiski cleaned it up for her second goal of the season.
"Coach tells us to apply pressure the ball and the keeper because you never know if she's going to catch it or not," Dominiski said. "It wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for the team."
Like DeLawder's initial boot and the header by Ramirez.
"I just wanted to get the head on the ball and get it into play," Ramirez said. "If I didn't get it in, hopefully one of teammates would, and that's what happened."
Washington held a 19-5 advantage in shots, though quality chances by either team were rare before the chance by the Patriots with some 14 minutes remaining.
Elkins' best opportunity happened in the 47th minute when Karli Hopwood sent a direct kick from atop the goal box off a Washington defender that deflected to Washington goalkeeper Kylie Nelson.
"It was a hard-fought game," Elkins coach Scott Cutright said. "Coming in, we figured it would be pretty evenly matched, and it was an even game. They just caught a break on a corner kick.
"Sometimes you play well, and it goes the other way."
And this time Ramirez was in the right place at just the proper time.
"She's been a player we've put in different positions all year, and she's been able to perform," Washington coach Tim Michael said, noting Ramirez has played everything except in goal this season.
Michael rotated his offensive players throughout the game, and it was time for Ramirez to relieve a teammate.
"We were basically trying to keep players fresh up front," Michael said. "We knew at some point, we'd get some shots."
The bulk of Washington's shots came after halftime when the coach reminded his team to pressure and "play through."
"It feels great," Michael said. "Bridgeport (two years ago), we were close. Buckhannon(-Upshur last year), we were close."
The Patriots closed it out in Year 3 of regional appearances.
A real new year.