FORT MILL — Fort Mill High junior Ashleigh Sheets simply refused to be denied while focusing on Clover’s goal during the first overtime period of their Region 3-AAAA soccer game Tuesday at the Fort Mill Stadium.
With the score tied 3-3, Sheets displayed tremendous concentration after taking a through-ball from freshman Taylor Parker and speeding toward the box. Sheets, who has already committed to play college soccer at Clemson, used her speed and foot skills to race past two defenders, but then, met the challenge of Clover goalkeeper Anslee Windell, who had turned in an outstanding performance with five saves in regulation.
“I just kept my mind on the goal,” Sheets said in describing the play. “I saw the goalkeeper come toward me for the block. I was expecting her to come out.” Still, Sheets maintained focus and shot a goal past Windell for the eventual game-winner in Fort Mill’s 4-3 victory in a battle of unbeatens.
Fort Mill (7-2-4 overall, 5-0 region) took the lead at the two-minute mark of the first overtime period. The Lady Yellow Jackets hung on with clutch defense in the second overtime when Clover had a golden opportunity prior to time expiring.
The Lady Blue Eagles (8-2, 4-1) had two perfect assists within the box, but a shot attempt sailed just above the top crossbar. Nearly 30 seconds later, time was called as Fort Mill extended its three-year unbeaten string in region play.
“I used that,” as motivation during a halftime chat, Fort Mill coach Jim Finnerty said. “We allowed them to get two goals early and then had to fight hard to get back into it with two goals.
“Therefore, we were never able to get into rhythm. It really took a lot out of us to be down 2-0 and then to fight back to tie it up. Our girls did an outstanding job in hanging in there to pull even.”
Once tying the contest on Cathryn Wilson’s goal on an assist from Chelsea Peterson at the 37-minute mark in the first half, Fort Mill seized momentum down the stretch. That was primarily due to a substitution pattern which gradually fatigued Clover, which used only one reserve throughout.
“Definitely, their depth was a huge factor,” Clover coach Leeann Mellon said. “We pretty much played 11 girls compared to their 30.
“But we are proud of our girls. We have been working on fitness and finesse. We knew that fitness would be key for us, just as much as our finesse game.”
Mellon said that her team displayed tremendous aggressiveness early in grabbing the 2-0 lead. Freshman Brita Widenhouse took an assist from Jordan Allen. Later, Kelsey Hamilton added an unassisted goal at the 18:00 mark.
Fort Mill pulled to within 2-1 when Sheets assisted Becca Tooley for a goal in the box. Wilson’s goal tied the score and allowed Fort Mill to have a fresh approach down the stretch. The Lady Jackets took a 3-2 lead when Lexi Wilden scored off an assist from Nicole Bainbridge at the 15-minute mark of the second half, but Clover hung tough as Rachel Newmister beat several defenders for an unassisted goal.
Time expired in regulation without any further scoring, setting the stage for two five-minute overtime sessions. Defensive continued to rule for both teams until Sheets’ game-winner.
Fort Mill, ranked eighth in the state, got four saves from senior goal keeper Maria Solerno. Clover, ranked 14th, got five stops from Windell.
At Fort Mill Fort Mill 4, Clover 3 First half C — Britta Widenhouse, 8:00, assist Jordan Allen. C — Kelsey Hamilton, 18:00, no assist. FM —Becca Tooley, 26:00, assist Ashleigh Sheets. FM —Cathryn Wilson, 37:06, assist Chelsea Peterson. Second half FM — Nicole Bainbridge, 15:00, assist Lexi Wilden. C —Rachel Newmister, 29:00, unassisted. First Overtime FM —Sheets, 2:00, assist Taylor Parker.
Shots on goal — Fort Mill 9, Clover 7. Goalies — Fort Mill — Maria Salerno ( 4 saves); Clover— Anslee Windell (5 saves). Records — Fort Mill 7-2-4, 5-0 in Region 3-AAAA, Clover 8-2, 4-1.