Finally, the Black Sticks women win a penalty shootout. And what a time to break the duck.

Black Sticks captain Stacey Michelsen, Samantha Harrison and keeper Grace O'Hanlon with a heroic effort after being injected for the shootout, proved match winners as New Zealand snuck past England in their Commonwealth Games semifinal to progress to contest gold against Australia.

Nightmares in these moments have long haunted the Black Sticks. Penalty shootouts are not their thing at major events, having lost eight straight before this. Yes, eight.Two of the most painful came with medals on the line.

Four years ago in Glasgow, the Black Sticks lost a penalty shootout in the semifinal against England after being locked 1-1 at fulltime.


Two years prior it was a similar story, losing a shootout to the Netherlands in the semifinal of the 2012 London Olympics.

Not this time. They refused to let history and heartbreak repeat.

New Zealand had one final chance at the death of regulation when Olivia Merry hit a bobbling ball just wide. After 11 shots on goal from the Black Sticks, eight from England, the 0-0 deadlock remained.

After the Black Sticks' third successive scoreless draw at these Games, O'Hanlon replaced Sally Rutherford. It was a big call, given Rutherford is yet to concede in five games here.
O'Hanlon fully justified the faith, saving four attempts in the shootout to allow Samantha Harrison and Michelsen to step up and send the Black Sticks through.

Michelsen, tactically left to last of New Zealand's five penalty takers, looked calm from the moment she stepped to the top of the circle.

Unlike any before her, Michelsen took the ball and charged dead straight with determination, flicking the ball over world-class keeper Madeleine Hinch with clutch precision.

This was a leader delivering when needed most.

Shootouts are a cruel way to decide medals. England's Susannah Townsend sat outside 15 minutes after the match, tears still flowing.

The Black Sticks know that feeling all too well.

As he gathered his team just prior to the shootout, Black Sticks coach Mark Hager tried to take the emotion away. He said don't worry, what will be will be.

All good in theory, of course.

When Samantha Charlton and Liz Thompson missed their attempts and England nailed their third, what would prove their only success, hopes of progression rested heavily on Harrison. She nailed it, as did Michelsen.

"We've been on a helluva lot the other way – a helluva lot let me tell you," Hager said, his shoulders never resting lower. "The more you get eventually you're going to win one so it's pleasing we did. Stacey scored one in London but she missed every one since so for her to get one today it's the monkey off the back as well."

Hager revealed the team had gone away from practice shootouts.

"We took the pressure off. We know how to dribble; we know how to do one-on-one contests so we did them little bits at a time rather than trying to focus really hard on them and say 'here's our No 1 weakness we've got to spend hours and hours on it'. We didn't bother. We did it once every fortnight or week and we'd go home."

Much of the glory for breaking the mental barrier rests with O'Hanlon. She knew this was her moment, and absolutely killed it.

"That's a specialty skill of mine. That's one of the reasons they brought me into the programme. I'm a big unit and I'm pretty quick so that was always going to be my role," she said. "The onus is on the player to score – they're expected to score you are just out there for glory so I think that gives you more confidence knowing all the pressure is on them.

"I think I'm still in a bit of disbelief. I was waiting for them to refer it and take the rug out from under us. It felt fantastic. Watching Stacey tuck that one past Matty Hence… it's always good to get a win against her."

The Black Sticks have never claimed Games gold; three silvers and two bronze before now. Between now and Saturday's showdown, Hager will urge them to harness this momentum and take the next step.

"We've got a medal but we've got a chance to get a gold medal. We've been in this situation before and faulted a little bit. As long as we play well I'll be happy."

More history may await.