It took almost a full 90 minutes before anyone was able to see the ball make it to the back of the net during Tuesday night’s District 5-AAA soccer matchup between Cleveland and McMinn County.
“It was Futbol Tuesday for us,” Lady Raider head coach Andy Byrd said. “I appreciate McMinn coming down and giving us a battle. We’ll see them again for sure.”
While Shelby Wilson’s goal gave the Lady Cherokees a 1-0 lead going into the second 10 minutes of overtime, it was Cleveland’s McKenzie Harris (with an assist by Sam DeBien) who tied things up with her last-second goal, forcing the district game to be decided by penalty kicks.
“It was a tactical decision we made to drop ’Kenzie in defensively for the first 10 minutes and then in the second 10 minutes we pushed her forward,” Byrd explained.
During the penalty kick tiebreaker, the Lady Raiders managed to get four shots past McMinn’s keeper, while the Lady Cherokees only got three past Jenna Scoggins.
Cleveland’s four penalty kick goals came from Harris, DeBien, Sohara Perez and Calli Baker.
With a final score of 5-4, it was Cleveland that walked away with the hard-fought win.
“This game came down to who was most prepared and we had worked on PKs in practice the day before for a good 20 minutes, and I think that showed,” Byrd commented. “I expect great games out of people in our district because we’ve got some kids that can really play.”
During the 80 minutes of regulation play, it was McMinn County that maintained control of the ball.
“I told the kids that McMinn won a lot of the battles but we won the war. It was about perseverance, it was about being selfless and being respectful. It was about those character traits that we have hanging up on the locker room wall,” Byrd explained.
The Lady Cherokees registered a total of 18 shots on goal, while the Lady Raiders saw only 12.
“McMinn controlled about 60 percent of the game. At the same time, we’re not fresh. We’re coming off of a huge, long week. I did that on purpose, because you’ve got to be able to play through that initial pain,” Byrd said. “I kept subbing people and getting fresh people in and at no point tonight did I think that we would lose this game. That’s what we have as a team — we have faith in each other and we love each other, and that’s the most important thing.”
It was due to Scoggins’ efforts in goal for Cleveland that the Lady Raiders walked away with the district win. While she managed to stonewall the Lady Cherokees for a full 80 minutes, Scoggins’ star appeared brightest as she stopped four consecutive McMinn penalty kicks to ensure her team the victory.
“Jenna has a lot of natural athletic ability, more than most people in fact. She got big in goal for us during the penalty kicks and made saves. Statistically there is a 10 percent chance of you saving one of those and she just saved four,” Byrd stated.
Scoggins was not the only player to come up big for Cleveland Tuesday night.
“You come out, you’ve got a great group of girls who are willing to give 100 percent to each other and they did tonight,” Byrd said. “We had great play by Taylor Lopez, Lorne Conn and Sarah Crump, who is fighting through an injury. “Hats off to Sam DeBien, who played great for us tonight, as well as Hope Haas. ’Kenzie Harris came up big for us and wound up getting the game-tying goal with maybe 10 seconds left. I’m just pleased overall.”
Following a rough past week which consisted of five games, the girls in Raider Blue have earned themselves a week off to recooperate.
Cleveland’s next game will be next Tuesday when the Lady Raiders travel down the road to take on the Bradley Bearettes.
LADY RAIDERS 5, LADY CHEROKEES 4
Halftime score: 0-0. Goals: McKenzie Harris (C); Shelby Wilson (MC). Penalty Kick Goals: Harris, Sam DeBien, Sohara Perez, Calli Baker (C); Gabby Poston, Lauren Cunningham, Mia Kesler (MC). Assists: DeBien Record: Cleveland 5-3, 2-0 5-AAA; McMinn County 3-2-2, 0-1 5-AAA.