TRACY — Stephanie Isenberg walked around the mob scene, past the revelers and through the rush, unraveling her gloves as she went. It was as close as she was going to get to a postseason party.
Isenberg made 11 saves and Stephanie Montes scored the first playoff goal in school history, but Merced fell to Tracy on penalty kicks after the two were tied at 1 after OT.
The PKs went Tracy's way, 4-2, and experience was key. Tracy (15-3-4) had three shootouts in the regular season, but Merced had attempted — and missed — just one shot.
"I know how tight these matches can be," Tracy coach Nate Perry said. "I know that eight or nine of my girls are confident enough (on) PKs."
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Tracy's first four shooters scored and its goalie stopped Merced's first kick. There was no need for the final PK.
The loss was Merced's first in more than two months and just its second on the season.
The game was tied 1-1 after 100 minutes of soccer — 80 minutes of regulation play and two 10-minute overtimes.
Merced came close in the final minutes of regulation, when the potential game-winner was called off by a late offsides call. Jessica Cacabelos hit a streaking Emma Martinez in the 78th minute, sliding a cross through the box. Left alone at the back door, Martinez pounced on the ball and kicked it in — then the flag came up, muting the cheers.
Tracy's Alexis Popoff finished a dazzling run with a goal in the fourth minute. The striker carried the ball 40 yards, warding off stabs from sweeper Alexa Lawler.
Merced (10-2-5) needed a bit of fortune to tie the score.
Montes sent in a low corner kick in the 22nd minute that Tracy's goalie couldn't handle. Instead, she redirected it into the goal behind her to make it 1-1. The score would remain that way for the duration of the match, forcing penalty kicks.