ORONO, Maine — During overtime of Wednesday’s Eastern Maine Class C championship schoolgirl soccer game, Orono High School junior midfielder Diana Tyutyunnyk made the most important save of her career when she made a desperate clearance of a ball that was rolling toward her goal line.
Had she not cleared it, Fort Kent would have captured the title and a berth in Saturday’s 10 a.m. Class C state final against Waynflete of Portland at Hampden Academy.
Instead, Orono won 2-1 in double overtime. Tyutyunnyk scored both goals.
But the most important save of her life occurred two years ago.
A fire broke out at her uncle and aunt’s home in Northport. It was December and she was sledding with her first cousin Julia Cerone.
Her grandmother burst from the house and told her that she needed help.
Tyutyunnyk, who was then 14, knew her 3-year-old sister Sophia was in the house so she raced in.
“The house was full of smoke. It was so heavy I couldn’t see anything,” said Tyutyunnyk. “But I could hear my sister crying. I just followed her voice.”
Tyutyunnyk pulled her sister out of the house and ran to the neighbors’ home with her sister and cousin. They called 911.
Her grandmother had run back into the house and Jason Thurston, one of the neighbors, ran into the house and saved her.
“He was a hero,” Tyutyunnyk said.
She said her dash into the house and her clearance of the ball off her line were similar in that they were both “instinctive” reactions. She didn’t have time to think about the situation, she had to act immediately.
Her game-winner against Fort Kent saw her dribble past four defenders before finishing it off.
When her game-winner was announced, the pronunciation was correct.
That is rare for the young lady of Ukrainian descent.
“I’ve been called quite a few different things,” said Tyutyunnyk. “I’m used to it. It doesn’t bother me.”
Orono athletic director Mike Archer remembered when the public address announcer tried to call her name after an event at the state track meet.
“He said ‘Diana’ …,” and then there was a long pause. He threw his hands up in the air,” chuckled Archer, who helped him with the pronunciation.
“It was kind of funny. There was such a long pause,” quipped Tyutyunnyk.
According to Diana, Tyutyunnyk is pronounced “chu-TOON-ik.”
She will enter Saturday’s game as Orono’s leading scorer with 19 goals and 11 assists.
Orono coach Cid Dyjak marvelled at her scintillating game-winner.
“After the game, I asked her, ‘Where did you find the energy in your legs to do that?’ She told me she was tired and wanted the game to be finished,” said a laughing Dyjak.
But she said she couldn’t have done it alone.
“I couldn’t have scored those goals without my team. They helped me get those goals,” said Tyutyunnyk. “And our defense was amazing. It was a wonderful game.”
She is passionate about soccer after being introduced to it in fourth grade by her father, Alex.
“He used to play soccer on the streets in the Ukraine,” said Tyutyunnyk. “He loves the game. He is such a fanatic. We sit down and watch soccer all the time. It’s a beautiful sport.”
Her passion for the game shows on the field.
“She has terrific skills. She is a great student of the game. She loves the game. Her work rate is off the charts,” said Dyjak. “She is always happy and she is a very kind and generous kid. She is a real pleasure to be around.”
The Class B state finals are also scheduled at Hampden Academy while the Classes A and D finals are set at McMann Field in Bath.