FORT MILL -- The Fort Mill Lady Jackets improved to 9-0 in Region 3-AAAA play with a come-from-behind 3-2 win against Clover on Monday. The match came down to penalty kicks, where Fort Mill's Lexi Wilden scored the decisive goal in sudden death after 26 PKs.
Clover, now 6-3 in the region, has lost to Fort Mill twice this season. Each match went to penalty kicks. The first match was decided after both sides had taken seven PKs. This one went 13 for each squad before it was clinched.
Fort Mill has won 47 straight region contests, a streak that predates any player on the roster and fourth-year coach Jim Finnerty.
"We don't like to talk about the streak," Finnerty said before the game.
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The streak was in serious jeopardy after Clover took a 2-0 lead into intermission. Goals by Kelsey Hamilton and Britta Widenhouse had the Blue Eagles feeling pretty good about themselves.
Hamilton converted a half-volley off of a throw-in into the back of the net from 18 yards away.
Widenhouse hammered a shot from 21 yards out that ducked under the crossbar and out of Fort Mill keeper Alexis McLaine's reach.
Both shots showed Clover's willingness to get off quick shots from any range.
But early in the second half, sophomore Ashley Forehand went down with a right ankle injury. Forehand had assisted on Clover's second goal and was a much-needed sparkplug for the Blue Eagles.
After a long delay, play resumed. Clover was forced to shuffle players into unfamiliar positions in place of Forehand.
Fort Mill pounced with a goal at the 47:00 mark. Kaitlyn Marr scored from close range. Her shot followed a shot deflected by Clover goalkeeper Haley Burton, making it a 2-1 game.
Clover coach Leann Melton said the injury to Forehand made a difference.
"Her (Forehand) getting injured threw us off. We had to move midfielders up. We don't sub a lot. We aren't like Fort Mill. They are able to sub in every 10 minutes or so."
Finnerty challenged his players at the half.
"In the first half, we just weren't sharp. We gave them too much space. They got open shots. Clover played with more heart than we did."
Fort Mill senior Ashleigh Sheets took Finnerty's challenge and keyed the Yellow Jackets' comeback.
"Coach said at half someone was going to have to take over the game. I decided I was going to try to do that. I am a leader on this team. I've never lost a region game in four years here and I wasn't going to let that happen."
Sheets was seemingly around every ball and was able to dribble through traffic in the second half. In the 57th minute, she weaved through the Clover defense and passed to Wilden for an open shot, but the Yellow Jackets were called for offsides.
Clover had a good scoring opportunity in the game's 59th minute when Alissa Pontuosco fired a shot off the crossbar. The carom came back to Clover for a second shot that missed high.
Sheets hooked up with Wilden in the final minute of regulation for the tying goal. Sheets, who will continue her soccer career next year at West Point, fed Wilden, who beat her defender. Wilden's shot whistled into the back of the net and ignited her teammates.
Wilden, a senior, had her first penalty kick stopped by Clover. But she was confident on her second chance.
"Coach stresses composure. I knew it was going in," Wilden said.
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