SAN FRANCISCO – Sunday afternoon was a big game for California Storm. With the top of the Pacific-North standings very tight, Storm could not afford to drop any points to the San Francisco Nighthawks.
So, it was a crushing blow that not one of Storm’s goalkeepers would be able to make it to the game. During warmups, Coaches Jerry Zanelli and Mo Whitney put their heads together and decided to let the players decide who would be suited best to tend the net. Among them, forward Leidiane Capobianco stepped up to the challenge. No one expected what was about to take place at Kezar Stadium.
The game started out well for Storm, who went up 1-0 early in the first half. However, a defensive error gave a Nighthawks’ player space in box, and she made no mistakes, tying the game 1-1. Lizzie Cudjoe regained the lead for Storm right before the end of the first half.
San Francisco came out determined to tie the game in the second half, but Capobianco made sure to preserve Storm’s lead. Due to her experience as a field player, Capobianco had a slight advantage over other goalkeepers, many of whom don’t have great footwork. She out-dribbled a Nighthawks’ forward to clear the ball out of the danger zone, and made more great saves to keep the score 2-1.
Sherifa Sumaila gave Storm more breathing room when she powered home a goal in the second half, putting Storm up 3-1.
In the last 20 minutes of the match, a Nighthawks’ player was taken down in the box and Storm’s worst fear was about to be realized: a penalty to be taken against rookie keeper Capobianco. Capobianco stood tall in her box, and when the whistle blew, she dove correctly to her right, grabbing the ball and hugging it to her chest. The Storm bench and the traveling fans erupted into cheers, as a grinning Capobianco cleared the ball out of her box.
Her penalty save was a perfect way to sum up her amazing effort in the goal box. Capobianco, with no goalkeeping experience, kept the Nighthawks at bay and Storm in the race to the playoffs.