JEFFERSON – With time expiring, and down 4-3, the West Hall Lady Spartans’ soccer team needed a prayer to make it to extra time against the Jefferson Lady Dragons. That prayer was answered off the foot of Izabel Salgado.
Salgado booted through the season-saving goal as time expired in regulation and gave the Lady Spartans new life. After 10 minutes of extra time, it was only fitting the game went to penalty kicks. When all the kicks were complete, the Lady Spartans’ improbable come-from-behind win was complete as they defeated the Lady Dragons 5-4 (4-3 PKs) in round one of the Class AAA state playoffs.
They play at Savannah Arts next Tuesday in round two. It is the team’s second-ever trip to the Sweet 16.
“We had a game at Stephens County a couple of weeks ago, in the last four seconds of the game, we tied it up,” West Hall head coach Adam Johnson said. “I just kept yelling ‘Stephens County, Stephens County.’ The mentality that these girls brought to this game was phenomenal.
“Every single player contributed to the effort tonight, to be the second team in school history to go to the Sweet 16.”
Johnson added Jefferson provided all the competition that his squad could have “asked for.”
“I can’t say enough about them (Jefferson), or this game, to go all the way down to the wire like that,” he said.
Salgado got the Lady Spartans on the board early in the first half, but the lead was short lived as Jefferson’s Briana Rosales tied the game at 1-1. Rosales added another goal in the 31st minute to give the Lady Dragons their first lead of the game (2-1).
With time winding down in the first half, West Hall’s Katie Kirkland found Shelley Anderson in front of the Lady Dragons’ goal. Anderson booted the ball into the net to tie the game at 2-2. The score remained the same at halftime.
West Hall’s Reachel Beaulieu broke the 2-2 tie in the 47th minute and gave the Lady Spartans the lead for the second time in the game (3-2). Like with the game-opening goal, the lead didn’t last as Jefferson’s Maryanne Kilgore scored 25 yards out on a free kick in the 49th minute to tie the game at 3-3.
Kilgore snagged her second goal of the game in the 70th minute (4-3), scoring off a corner kick from teammate Kayla Brown. The ball ricocheted off a West Hall defender and Kilgore put it into the net.
With hope dimming, the Lady Spartans attempted two shots in the final 15 seconds. Both were blocked. The third time was the charm as Salgado took a deflection and booted the game-tying goal through from 10 yards away as time expired.
“Oh my god, I was so in shock,” Salgado said about her second goal. “I just saw the clock and just freaked out. My instinct was just to shoot. I’m just still in shock that I made it.
“I wouldn’t have done it without my team. We wanted it so bad. This is our second time making history and I’m just so proud.”
After no goals were scored in extra time, penalty kicks were needed to decide the winner. The Lady Dragons kicked first and Brown got the team off to a promising start. Then, in stepped Kirkland and she matched Brown to set the score 1-1.
The second shooters for both teams missed their respected kicks.
Kilgore shot third for the Lady Dragons and got them back on track as she connected on her attempt (2-1). Salgado matched Kilgore’s attempt and both teams were again tied (2-2). Katie Burdick connected on her attempt and the Lady Dragons led 3-2. Beaulieu, who was wearing a bandage around her head after a collision with a Jefferson player in the 74th minute, wasn’t phased as she kicked her attempt through (3-3).
With one kicker left for each team, it came down to which goalkeeper could make the stop. West Hall goalkeeper Lucy Ibarra didn’t blink as she stopped Payton Navas’ attempt, which opened the door for Monica Payero to win the game. Payero connected on her attempt to win the game for the Lady Spartans.