To say it wasn’t pretty would be an understatement.
But it’s a win, a huge win, and the Kilgore High School Lady Bulldogs soccer team will take it – and grin. And today? If they win today, it’s back to the UIL Class 4A state tournament.
Coach Heidi Hagan’s team outlasted Mabank in a grueling 2 ½-hour battle in the Region 2 tournament in Longview at Lobo Stadium on Friday morning – then Friday afternoon. The game ended regulation tied at 2-all, and then made it past the dual 10-minute overtime periods and into the shootout phase.
It even ended the first shootout phase tied at five before Kilgore’s Maria Whitaker gave her team a 2-1 lead in that shootout, and then teammate Sarah Loomis, Kilgore’s goalkeeper, fell to her knees for a save, the game-winning save.
That victory, Kilgore’s 19th of the season, means the Lady Bulldogs are playing either Terrell or Pleasant Grove today at 11 a.m. at Lobo Stadium for a state tournament trip. Should Kilgore win, the Lady ‘Dogs would advance to their second state tournament appearance in three years. That would be next week at Georgetown’s Birkelbach Stadium.
But Mabank would not go away easily. In fact, it was Mabank that scored first out of the gates. Maysi Hinkle put it in on a free kick that tipped off Loomis and into the goal less than seven minutes into the game (the 33:21 mark). Mabank, who brought five buses to the contest including a couple of hundred fans, looked to have momentum.
Kilgore, though, stole it right back when Kylie Nichols scored from about 28 yards out on a line drive of her own that got past Mabank goalkeeper Alyssa Smith. Nichols’ ball hit the net with 29:20 left in the first half.
The half was played at rather a torrid pace, and that would play a factor later, when it appeared both teams were fatigued. Mabank took a 2-1 lead with 21:07 left in the half on a goal by Bri Martin. Leslie Bennett just missed a goal with eight minutes left in the half that would’ve tied the game again, but the contest went to half with the Lady Panthers up, 2-1.
Kilgore didn’t have to wait long for that tie. The Lady ‘Dogs got it, this time off the foot of Emma Taylor, just over 2 ½ minutes into the second half. The rest of the second half appeared to be Kilgore pressing and Mabank reacting – Kilgore looked fresher, and had some near-misses, including a one-on-one situation with Maliyah Holland on a break-away with 20 minutes left; Smith just stopped it, or it would’ve been 3-2 Kilgore.
Bennett also missed with about 5 ½ minutes left, and Mabank, off opportunities on corner kicks with less than a minute left, also couldn’t get the game-winner.
So the contest went to overtime – that means two 10-minute periods, like a mini-game. If anyone had scored in that first 10 minutes, the second 10 still would’ve been played. But no one did. In fact, no one scored at all, and the game went to a shootout.
It went back and forth – Kilgore players Nichols, Kaitlyn Word, Bennett, Taylor and then Jade Norris each alternated with Mabank players, and even after that, the shootout session was tied at five.
In the second shootout series, Kilgore’s Tori Shipman scored, then Mabank’s Meagan Mueller tied it at 1-all. Whitaker put Kilgore back in front, 2-1, and then Mabank’s Chloe Reese stepped in front of the goal. She booted the ball, but Loomis dove on it, ending the game with Kilgore in front, as Kilgore’s players and coaches ran from the sideline to mob her in celebration.