It was a bit of redemption Thursday night as the Cleveland Lady Raiders experienced some deja vu at home against the Ooltewah Lady Owls in a District 5-AAA soccer showdown.
Earlier this season, Cleveland became the first team in the district to experience the new golden goal rule handed down at last year’s coaches meeting.
Under the new rule, district matches are required to play a pair of golden goal periods when regulation ends in a tie. The rule was handed down in the hopes of simplifying seeding come district tournament time.
On Sept. 6 Cleveland and Bradley waged an epic battle that ended regulation in a 1-1 draw. The squads took to the pitch for the first golden goal period in which Bradley shocked the Lady Raiders with the upset game winner.
Fast forward to Thursday night, in the 24th minute of the first half Samantha DeBien crossed to Sohara Perez. Perez struck the ball goalward where Ooltewah’s keeper just couldn’t get a solid grip on it, allowing the ball to trickle across the line for Cleveland’s first goal of the match.
Three minutes later the Lady Owls struck back when Kayla Auger came out on the receiving end of a set piece, putting the ball in the back of the Lady Raider net and knotting things up at 1-all. It was an eerie mirror of the match that took place two weeks ago.
The entire second half went by with numerous offensive looks from Cleveland. Twice Lorne Conn came within inches of breaking the match open only to have the ball bounce off the woodwork.
Head coach Andy Byrd was also forced to make some personnel changes due to injuries; the changes, though, sparked some life into an offense that has had trouble finding goals.
Junior Kendall Hamilton was moved up to the attacking side of the ball, and the switch generated a number of quality crosses to both Perez and DeBien as well as a few shots on goal.
All that being said, neither team was able to push another goal across as the full 80 minutes came to a close, and for the second time Cleveland found itself going into a golden goal period against an important district rival after getting a goal early and letting the opposition grab the equalizer soon after.
The scenario looked all too familiar to that earlier heartbreaking loss against Bradley.
But, the Lady Raiders showed Cleveland High School faithful that history can be learned from so it is not repeated.
In the second minute of the first golden goal period it was DeBien who fought through the Ooltewah defense to notch a stunning, game-winning goal.
Technically, the match still goes into the books as a draw, but it’s a big win in the eyes of the players, the fans and especially the coach.
“This is a huge moral victory. The girls are super excited. We were down in this situation against Bradly a couple weeks ago. We fell a little short there. But, there was a fire in the girls tonight to make that goal happen,” stated an elated coach Byrd.
“As a team, I feel like we are gaining some steam again. Character can be taught by sports, and we’ve shown tonight we’ve learned a lot. But, sports reveal character. That’s something John Wooden said. We did what we had to do tonight to win, and we showed a lot of character in doing it.”
Cleveland will be back in action Tuesday as the Lady Raiders travel to Walker Valley for a 6 p.m. start against the Mustangs.