The Fort Mill Lady Jackets ended a two game losing skid in dramatic fashion Wednesday, defeating the 4-AAAA Northwestern Trojans on penalty kicks.
The score was tied at 1 at the end of regulation, and it came down to the final penalty kick, made by Fort Mill senior defender Kayla Hirsch, to decide the victor.
Yellow Jacket coach Ryan Morris praised his team's fortitude, but used Fort Mill's previous loss against Clover as an example of what his squad needs to improve upon.
"We just need to get the ball into the back of the net," Morris said. "Our last game came down to penalty kicks, and we shouldn't let ourselves get in that position. We dominate the time of possession and run the field well, now we just need to finish the job."
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In the first half, Fort Mill maintained control of the ball for more than 30 minutes. Keeping the Trojans defense on their heels, the Yellow Jackets managed seven corner kicks, but only four shots on goal and failed to capitalize on numerous opportunities to score. Yet, Northwestern was even more sluggish, notching just two shots on goal and, save for an unsuccessful breakaway by forwards Helena More and Lauren Watts, rarely crossed into Yellow Jacket territory.
But in soccer, an extended period of struggle can always be remedied by just one shot, and the Trojans did exactly that in the second half. Early on in the half, a corner kick by forward Cassie Brault resulted in a massive tussle at the front of the Yellow Jacket net, but yielded no goal for the Trojans. However, at the 57 minute mark, a similar situation occurred, and this time, Watts was able to capitalize. Her goal gave Northwestern a 1-0 edge over Fort Mill. But in the 66th minute, a pass by Yellow Jacket midfielder Shelby Bazemore set up a line drive from the foot of senior forward Kristen Headden to even the score at 1, which would remain until the end of regulation.
Two overtime periods later, and it was on to penalty kicks, which, like the game itself, went back and forth until the very end. The Yellow Jackets edged the Trojans 8-7, improving their record to 6-4-1 while Northwestern falls to 3-4-2.
Morris believes that Wednesday's win could be a season-changer heading into a tough stretch of upcoming games.
"Morale was down coming into this game, but our motto all week has been 'Refuse to Lose,'" Morris said. "This is a big confidence booster for us, because we know we compete with any 4-AAAA school out there. I'm extremely proud of this team."
FORT MILL 1
N - Lauren Watts 57:23
FM - Kristen Headden 66:32
Shots on Goals: Fort Mill 14, Northwestern 9
Saves: Hattie Ruch 4 (FM), Tori Pierce 3 (N)
Records: Fort Mill 6-4-1, Northwestern 3-4-2