The Fort Mill High School girls soccer team knew what it was getting into as the bus rolled into Clover Friday night.
The two teams met with the top spot in the region on the line, a position the Lady Jackets have held for much of the past five years and something that Clover was poised to challenge for this season.
It took a goal by Fort Mill team captain Taylor Parker, more than midway through the second half, to finally put away the Eagles 1-0 in an emotional meeting. Fort Mill Head Coach Vic Johnson credited the Clover team for a hard-fought match and said he was impressed with the way that they played.
"Our first half was very average, mainly because of Clover's intensity," Johnson said. "I thought they outplayed us, they really outworked us...it was their home field, they wanted it more."
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Clover also gained an advantage near the end of the first half when Parker, one of the leaders of the Fort Mill team, was given a yellow card with about 10 minutes to play in the first half, then benched for the remainder of the half by Johnson.
"[The referee] caught her retaliation. She was getting knocked around a little bit," Johnson said. "Ashleigh Sheets had to deal with it last year, Taylor does this year. Big players have to take it."
The Eagles were unable to capitalize on Parker's absence, and when she returned in the second half, she would have her chance to make up for it. In the 63rd minute, Parker sliced through the Eagles' defense and fired a shot, high and just inside the post, for the game's only score.
Johnson said he was pleased with the way his team responded in the second half and credited their defense, especially against one of the region's top players, Clover senior Rachael Newmister.
Newmister, despite the loss, said she was proud of the way her team performed.
"We had a lot of momentum in the first half, it was a battle throughout and we gave it a lot of heart," she said. "It could have gone either way."
Clover fell to 4-6-1 on the season, 3-1 in the region, after Friday, but Newmister said even though the team has taken a few losses, they have learned from them.
"It's built our character and made us ready for games like these," she said.
Clover Head Coach Kelsey Geary said she thought the two teams played at a higher level than most matches this season.
"These are the two best teams in the region. That's why we play tough teams- to prepare us for this level of play," Geary said. "The kids played hard. It was a good team effort but we just didn't come up big in the end. We just have to pick ourselves back up and take it one game at a time."
Geary said she was pleased with the way Clover played and said though they may have been pulled out of position at times, the team did not make any major mistakes, even in giving up the goal.
"That was a fantastic goal, not off of a mistake," she said. "[Parker] is a great offensive player. If anyone was going to get the job done, it was her."
Fort Mill improved to 8-3 on the year and 4-0 in the region.
The two teams will meet again Wednesday, April 29, in Fort Mill.