Schafer’s free kick lifts CR by Appo 2-1 in D-I soccer quarterfinals

SMYRNA — The ball floated in the air for what felt like forever and Haley Schafer swore time was standing still.

Haley Schafer’s stunning strike with four minutes left was the difference as the Riders earned a 2-1 victory over Appoquinimink in the DIAA Division I girls’ soccer quarterfinals at Smyrna High on Wednesday night. The second-seeded Riders will face No. 3 Padua in the semifinals next week at a time and place to be determined. Delaware State News/Tim Mastro

The Caesar Rodney High sophomore’s free kick from 40 yards out hung up until she finally saw it drop into the top corner of the net.

“When you’re waiting, everything is quiet, it just freezes,” Schafer said. “Then it goes in and you just hear the crowd, it’s such a great feeling.”

Schafer’s stunning strike with four minutes left was the difference as the Riders earned a 2-1 victory over Appoquinimink in the DIAA Division I girls’ soccer quarterfinals at Smyrna High on Thursday night. The second-seeded Riders will face No. 3 Padua in the semifinals next week at a time and place to be determined.

Caesar Rodney (14-3) had to rally after Appoquinimink went up on a goal by Madison Whary in the 48th minute. Jessie Prillaman equalized 10 minutes later to set the stage for Schafer’s heroics.

Jada McCullough pushed up the right flank and was brought down as the Jaguars were whistled for the foul. Schafer, a centerback, trotted forward to take the free kick as the Rider attackers gathered around the edge of the 18-yard box.

But Schafer was eyeing the net. She kicked the ball across the field, burying it over a leaping goalie and inside the left post.

“I just could feel it, that it was time to shoot on goal,” Schafer said. “We didn’t have many chances. Coach called it, that it was going to curl in left and it did just that.”

“What a free kick,” said CR coach Darrell Gravatt. “A masterful free kick. Jada got fouled which led to that, she was doing really well in the second half which was a nice spark for us.”

Appoquinimink out-shot Caesar Rodney in the first half before taking the lead early in the second, which Prillaman, a senior captain, said woke the Riders up.

“I was frustrated when they scored but I knew we had to pick up the energy,” she said. “They had way more energy than us in the first half. After they scored, I think that actually helped us because it helped us realize we need to get it going.”

Prillaman took it upon herself to even the score.

She collected a clearance at midfield and burst down the left sideline. She out-ran her defender before cutting back to square up with the goal.

As soon as she turned her body, she fired toward the near post, making it a 1-1 game.

“Wow, that’s one of the greatest runs, if not the greatest high school run I’ve ever seen by a high school player,” Gravatt said. “She came all the way in and her finish was superb. Her will, her pace, her great dribbling ability, her two-footedness all took over. Big uplift for CR, after that I felt like we were in good shape.”

After the goal Prillaman turned back toward her teammates, grabbed her jersey and let out a yell.

“I did not want this to be my last game ever in high school,” she said. “I was so happy I had to scream. After we scored, the momentum went up.”

Appoquinimink sent everyone forward in the final two minutes but CR’s backline and goalie Morgan Desaulniers knocked away any incoming crosses to hold the Jaguars without a shot on goal in the final three minutes.

Despite seemingly so few chances in the first half, Gravatt thought goals were still in the cards for the Riders in the second half.

“We rarely get shut out and I figured we would score,” Gravatt said. “I think the girls knew we would score eventually. Credit to Appo, they played well but we just kept digging deep.”

The Riders will now face Padua, who edged Caesar Rodney 2-1 in the regular season on April 2.

Padua (12-3) reached the semifinals with a 3-0 victory over Polytech in the earlier game at Smyrna on Thursday. Haley Dougherty gave the Pandas the lead with a goal in the seventh minute before they added two more in the second half on Rachel Simpson’s free kick and Riley Hickox’s header.

Polytech wrapped up its season with an 11-5 record.

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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