Despite maintaining a majority of the possession and launching a number of shot attempts on frame, the Lady Raiders found themselves at a 1-1 tie at the end of regulation against their Bearette rivals.
In previous years that would have been the end of the match. But, in the offseason coaches meeting, the district voted to decide ties with a pair of 10-minute golden goal periods to decided a winner.
A golden goal period immediately comes to an end when one of the teams push a goal across the line, giving them the lead and the victory.
The match was in that first extra period when Bradley stunned Cleveland three minutes in. Alexia (Lulu) Hubbard laced a laser from 30 yards out to give the Bearettes a 2-1 lead and their first district victory.
“I am really proud of the way our girls played tonight. Cleveland is a very good team and we fought the whole match. We went down again early, but at least we ended this one a little better than the last few,” said Bradley Central head coach Tiffany Walker.
“I told the girls that sometimes the scoreboard doesn’t necessarily reflect the game that was on the field. If you are having success against a team in possession, but are lacking some creativity up front to score goals it can sneak up and get you,” was Cleveland coach Andy Byrd’s take post-match.
No one in the stands could have expected that outcome when the match first got underway.
In the fourth minute of the match-proper junior Lorne Conn sent a Cleveland free kick just wide of the far post.
Less then a tick later she got the exact same opportunity, and this time she fired an arillary shot goalwards that found the back of the “onion bag” to put the Lady Raiders up 1-nil early.
Bradley got its first quality offensive look in the 10th minute Caley Jones got to try her hand at a free kick. While the ball was well struck, it coursed wide of the goal to end the threat.
Cleveland’s Sohara Perez Gomez nearly made it a two goal game in the 19th minute when she struck the bottom half of the crossbar to miss the score by mere inches.
Both team were able to display some up-and-coming talent a minute later when Lady Raider freshmen striker Samantha DeBien put a shot with pace across the face of goal, and freshmen Bearette keeper Tara Blackwell made an astute diving stop to keep it a one goal game.
The lead evaporated in the 30th minute when Bradley’s Jones volleyed a strike from distance that surged into the net to put the Bearettes on the scoreboard and brought play level at a 1-1 draw.
That was the score both teams ended up taking into the half.
When play resumed it was back to Cleveland possession and offensive strikes.The Lady Raiders had eight notable offensive pushes throughout the second half compared to three for Bradley, but missed opportunities and hap-hazard execution kept Cleveland out of the goal and the Bearettes in the game.
“We just failed to do a number of little things tonight. We needed to crash the goal better, but we can’t do that if no one is there because they are looking to shoot from rang for example. It’s just some stuff we need to work on, and we’ll get there. This is a process. We are going to take this one and learn and grow from it,” Byrd explained.
At the culmination of 80 minutes the whistles sounded to put an end to regulation play amidsts numerous players on both team suffering from heat cramps and leadened legs.
After a short recess the sides retook the pitch for the first match in district history to full under the new extra period rule change.
Even in the extra period Cleveland had the first positive offensive push, but three minutes into the overtime Hubbard sent both teams home with a well-struck ball that appeared to come from nowhere and ended up rolling around the Lady Raider goal for the emphatic and eventful victory.
“I think this win will boost our confidence going into some of these district games. Cleveland is a huge rival, so our girls were really pumped coming in here. I’m hoping this will give us the spark we need with several tough games right around the corner,” expressed Williams.
Cleveland (2-3-2) will have to put their first district loss behind them as they prepare for another tough district match at home against a 2-1-0 Rhea County side Tuesday.
Bradley (2-1-3) will have a tough task ahead of them to keep the momentum rolling as they go on the road to face the defending district champs Soddy-Daisy Lady Trojans (3-1-2).