The Bishop O'Dowd High girls soccer team kept knocking, but Piedmont goalkeeper Kesy Platt wouldn't let them in.
Finally, the Dragons kicked the door down in penalty kicks to earn a second consecutive North Coast Section Division II championship.
The No. 1 seeded Dragons prevailed 3-2 over the No. 6 Highlanders in a best-of-five shootout on Feb. 23 at Dublin High after the teams battled scoreless through 80 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of sudden-death overtime in the Division II final.
O'Dowd freshman keeper Lorna McElrath clinched the victory with a diving save on Erin Greening's attempt in the fifth round, after O'Dowd's brilliant playmaker Stephanie Zuniga converted in the fourth round to make it 3-2.
The unflappable Platt made 12 saves overall, also converting a penalty kick in the shootout. The balanced Highlanders defense withstood steady pressure from the powerful Dragons attack.
"We just couldn't put it in the goal. We were worried about that," O'Dowd coach Jon Nishimoto said. "We knew that their goalkeeping was strong and their defenders were extremely strong, so it would tough to break down their back line and put a ball in the goal. We were prepared for a tough game."
Piedmont coach Dan Chubbock was thrilled with his team's performance.
"We took it to the last kick of the game, that's all we could have asked," he said. "We knew that it was going to have to be a dogged performance. It was backs to the wall, but the second half we came into the game a little bit more."
The Highlanders back line was composed of Emily Altieri, Mara Blumenstein, Amy Dong and Claire Lim.
Holding the Dragons scoreless is an accomplishment. They outscored their first three NCS playoff opponents a combined 17-1 and seemed on the verge of scoring for much of Saturday's final.
Bishop O'Dowd's dynamic attacking trio of Ryan Walker-Hartshorn, Zuniga and freshman Aerial Chavarin was very good, but the Highlanders bided their time counter-attacked when they could.
The Highlanders upended No. 2 Campolindo in a shootout in the semifinals after also tripping No. 3 Dublin 1-0 in the quarterfinals. So they had little to lose against the athletic Dragons, which easily defeated St. Mary's 5-0 in the other semifinal.
In breezy conditions, the Dragons put pressure on the Highlanders throughout the first half. A couple of nice saves by Platt, and Platt's best friend, the crossbar, kept the match scoreless. Zuniga ripped a left-footed shot off the crossbar in the ninth minute. Late in the half during a sustained stretch of Dragons pressure, freshman right forward Chavarin hit a low blast toward the near corner, and Platt made a nice save. Another quick hit by Chavarin off a pass from Walker-Hartshorn was also saved by Platt.
The Highlanders played tough, though. However, the Dragons back line of speedy right back Ryan Daniel, center backs Darby Nordin and Kate Ranahan, and left back Sophia Natsues, kept its shape and had enough pace to counter any of the Highlanders' clever exchanges. Piedmont rarely got close to the Dragons' goal, having to shoot from way outside.
Walker-Hartshorn, a Stanford commit, nearly broke through in the 52nd minute with a leaping header off a cross by Taylor Hobbs from the left. But Platt leaped and tipped the ball over the crossbar. Three minutes later, Zuniga sent a twisting 26-yard shot off a free kick. Platt bobbled the catch and recovered to pounce on the ball just before the Dragons could pounce again.
McClymonds 62, Oakland Tech 50: The Warriors' Gabby Gaines scored 11 of her game-high 21 points in the first quarter against the host Bulldogs, as McClymonds took control with a 17-8 first-quarter lead on their way to a victory which clinched McClymonds' first Oakland Athletic League title since 2008.
After the first four minutes of the game, the score was 6-6. But Gaines grabbed a steal and raced down the court for a layup with 3:22 remaining in the first quarter, starting a 11-2 run to end the period. Gaines had eight of those points, including three straight baskets to begin the run. After that run, Oakland Tech didn't get closer than seven points to McClymonds the rest of the game.
The Warriors had eight steals in the first quarter, including two by Gaines, and 12 in the first half. McClymonds, which improved to 23-3 overall and 9-1 in OAL action, held a 29-20 halftime advantage.
"Sixteen turnovers (in the first half), you can not have 16 turnovers against Mack," Oakland Tech coach Valerie Hartsfield said.
The Warriors' Da'Ja'Nay Powell, who played for Oakland Tech last season as a freshman, scored 15 points in her first game against her former team. Oakland Tech (20-5, 8-2) was paced in scoring by senior London Robinson with 15, and she also had 10 rebounds and five steals. Teammate Kelea Pickeral-Dennis also had a double-double with 11 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
-- Phil Jensen
McClymonds 56, Oakland Tech 48: Tahjee Williams had 19 points and Eric Jones had 18 as the host Warriors beat the Bulldogs to complete an unbeaten regular season in the OAL. McClymonds (19-7, 10-0 OAL) trailed by three at halftime but rallied to outscore Oakland Tech 35-24 in the second half. Jullian Standley led Oakland Tech (18-8, 6-4) with 13 points.