Clover girls’ soccer players couldn’t help but notice the commotion as J.L. Mann players chased their coaches around the Memorial Stadium field with Gatorade coolers full of ice water. Patriots coach Tasos Georgopolous eventually relented, crouching down as the water was dumped on his back.
Kelsey Geary’s Clover team was on the far side of the field, seated mostly and trying to digest a 4-1 overtime loss to the Patriots in Monday’s 5A Upper State semifinal. Clover, ranked No. 1 in the state the entire season, had beaten all three of the other 5A state semifinalists -- Wando, Lexington and J.L. Mann. But the Blue Eagles were slow from the start Monday night and finally fell apart in overtime when the Patriots poured in three goals to end Clover's dream season.
"Playoffs, you need a lot of luck and we've had a lot of luck all season," said Geary.
The Patriots scored eight minutes into the match, wobbling Clover early. Aliyah Milicia met Erika Manfre's dangerous cross from the left with her thigh, prodding the ball into the left corner to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
The Blue Eagles grew into the game as the half wore on, and they equalized with a couple minutes left. Selah Gaylor tracked down a long ball over the J.L. Mann defense and cut it back to an onrushing J'menii Isaac, who steadied herself before rolling the ball into the far corner for a 1-1 score.
"I thought they regrouped, they got it together and they started playing our game," said Geary. "I knew we were gonna have jitters the first five minutes, so to get the equalizer, that was great for us."
But that was the highlight on a glum night for the hosts.
Clover lost Gaylor to a serious leg injury and J.L. Mann bossed the second half, Milicia, Manfre and Clemson-committed forward Caroline Conti pelting Clover keeper Brooklyn Gunn's goal. Gunn made a slew of saves, touching, punching, pushing and batting Patriots shots away.
Clover's resistance broke in overtime, in a big way.
Two minutes into the first extra period, Milicia slid a low shot into the lower left corner to make it 2-1. No golden goal, so the contest continued and J.L. Mann took no chances, Milicia completing her hat-trick with a looping header past Gunn about five minutes later. Monday night's game was Milicia's first back from an injury suffered in the season-opening Viking Cup tournament.
The teams switched ends, Geary's team requiring a miracle, but Conti nixed that idea, placing a shot into the roof of the net for the Patriots' fourth goal.
"Clover had a great run, they have a fantastic team," said Georgopolous, whose team will play Lexington in Saturday's 5A state title game. "We just happened to be better today."