GREENVILLE — In a very close match-up, J.L. Mann scored with 2:38 left in the game to get the 2-1 win against the Fort Mill Jackets in the second round of the Class AAAA state soccer playoffs.
14th-ranked Fort Mill traveled to third-ranked J.L. Mann to take on a one-loss squad in the Patriots. After dropping its season opener to Hilton Head, J.L. Mann rattled off 21 straight wins to get to the second round of the playoffs.
J.L. Mann controlled the ball to start the second half early on with the game tied at 1. However, neither team seemed to gain control like the first half, where the Patriots controlled the tempo.
J.L. Mann got a couple early shot attempts and corner kicks, but Yellow Jackets freshman keeper Samantha Whitley was able to keep the Patriots out of the net.
Fort Mill controlled the ball more in the second half and put more pressure on the J.L. Mann defense.
That seemed to change in the last 10 minutes of the game as the Patriots became the aggressors, shifting into another gear to start pulling away.
J.L. Mann got breakaway opportunities and that aggression paid off. With fewer than three minutes remaining, the Patriots netted the game winner as sophomore Sarah Dixon scored on a breakaway to give them the 2-1 lead.
“Mentally we lost our shape,” Fort Mill coach Ryan Morris said. “Fatigue got the best of us. The fight, the effort they gave; I’m very proud of them.”
Morris had high praise for Whitley, who had 11 saves in the game.
“My keeper kept us in the game,” he said.
After a short period from each team in the first half, where neither team controlled the ball much, the Patriots started to gain the advantage by controlling possession.
J.L. Mann got its first shot on goal about eight minutes into the game, but Whitley scooped up the shot.
Fort Mill didn’t have many chances on offense due to a lack of ball possession, getting just one shot on goal in the first 10 minutes of the game.
When the Jackets did have the ball, the Patriots’ defense was right on top of them, swarming and intercepting passes.
The Patriots had back-to-back chances to score with about 20 minutes left in the first half, but Whitley made a diving stop on one of the shots and then the other shot missed the goal completely.
Defensively, Fort Mill did a good job filling the box and keeping J.L. Mann from getting any breakaway advantages or easy looks at the goal.
J.L. Mann had another shot on goal with about nine minutes left in the first half on a free kick, but Whitley was on top of her game and came up with her fourth save of the first half.
Two minutes later, the Patriots got on the board after an accidental hand ball during a cross shot by J.L. Mann set up a penalty kick by junior Jeni Erickson.
The Jackets got a lucky break right before the half to tie the game as junior Bailey Rich collided with Patriots goalkeeper Nicole Dagher, but not before getting the shot off with just enough force to roll into the goal for Fort Mill’s only score.
JLM – Jeni Erickson, 33:14
FM – Bailey Rich, 39:00
JLM – Sarah Dixon, 77:22
Shots on goal: Fort Mill 3, JL Mann 13.
Saves: Samantha Whitley (FM) 11, Nicole Dagher (JLM) 2.
Corner kicks: Fort Mill 1, JL Mann 6.
Records: Fort Mill 18-4-1, JL Mann 22-1-0.