As the final hues of sunlight faded, something else “golden” appeared on the Bradley Central pitch Thursday evening, giving the host Bearettes a hard-fought overtime victory.
Three minutes into the extra period, Bradley freshmen Haley Yarber picked up a loose ball on the right side of the box and lasered it home for the golden goal and a 3-2 District 5-AAA victory over county-rival Walker Valley.
“It was an ugly win but we’ll take it,” declared Bearette head coach Tiffany Walker. “Walker Valley played with a lot of heart and had some good chances to score. We came out slow and sluggish but we did enough to get the job done.”
The victory improved Bradley to 5-4-3 on the season and 3-3 in district play, while the Lady Mustangs slipped to 1-8 and 0-5, with a trip to Rhea County Tuesday remaining in their 5-AAA slate. Both teams will be in action on Thursday as the Bearettes travel to Red Bank, while Walker Valley makes the trek to Chattanooga Central.
Despite their sluggish start, Bradley was able to outshoot the visitors by a 10-3 margin in the opening 40 minutes. Yarber netted the only first half goal on an unassisted strike 19 minutes into the match.
Down 1-nil at the intermission, the Lady Mustangs were able to even the score six minutes into the second half, when freshman Mikeala Goins broke away down the left flank. Having drawn a lone defender and the Bearette goalkeeper toward her direction, she was able to get a centering pass to sophomore teammate Jaclyn Griffith for the goal.
The score remained the same for the next 16 minutes before sophomore Caley Jones put Bradley back up by a goal with a 15-yard shot that found the back of the net.
The home team celebration was short-lived as off the ensuing kick off, Walker Valley was able to get the ball to Griffith who quickly beat her defender to go one-on-one with the Bearette goalkeeper and even the match at 2-2.
The score stayed the same the rest of regulation with Lady Mustang sophomore goalkeeper Abby Sanders making a pair of very good saves in the final three minutes to send the match to overtime.
“Abby gave us an opportunity to win,” assessed Walker Valley coach Tom Bayliss. “She made a couple of great saves there at the end (of regulation) to keep us in it.”
With the daylight almost gone, the teams jockeyed back-and-forth for the first couple of minutes of the overtime before Bradley was able to get the ball in the box. After it ping-ponged off several players in both colored jerseys, the ball rolled out of the scrum to the right side of the box, where Yarber alertly got control and sent a rocket shot just out of the reach of Sanders.
Both teams had a half dozen shots on goal in the second half, but Yarber’s game-winner was the first such shot in the overtime. Bradley finished the match with a 16-9 shot on goal advantage, with Sanders making 11 saves.
“I’m proud of the effort the girls gave, but we just started too late,” declared coach Bayliss. “We have got to play with energy every minute of a match. We can grow from this. This leaves a bad taste in our mouth that we don’t want again.”
“It’s a shame we had to finish in the dark,” he added. “It would have been nice to play under some lights so the visibility would have been better for the overtime.”