With less than 60 seconds to go in the second period of extra time of Thursday’s soccer match, Madison Huckabee found the ball at her feet inside the penalty area and the senior defender chipped one into the back of the net to level the game as Hoggard and Laney played to a 1-1 draw in a key Mideastern Conference match at Holliday Stadium.
The two top teams in league standings competed in an evenly played match to a 0-0 tie at the end of regulation, which led to the two 10-minute overtime periods.
“There were a lot of girls on last year’s team and I think we went into eight or nine overtimes and one of the things we talked about heading into the extra time tonight was that we’ve been here before,” said Hoggard Coach Justin Schatz. “I just reminded them that we’re grinders and play to the final whistle.”
After battling back and forth towards the end of the first extra frame, freshman Haley Shand put the home side in front with a low strike towards the right edge of frame to give the Bucs a 1-0 advantage. Shand was able to split a pair of defenders on a header from Baley Edwards and made one turn before firing across the penalty area to put Laney on the board.
“It was definitely really nerve-wracking as the game progressed,” said Shand. “Baley is an amazing midfielder and without her and Alex [Butorovich], we wouldn’t be where we are in conference. Baley was able to get me the ball and I made a quick move and work on that shot a lot.”
Laney is 9-1-1 in league play and 14-1-1 on the year. The Vikings took one step closer to clinching a regular season championship with the tie to move to 9-0-1 in conference and 15-2-2 overall.
“For the most part we did a great job marking up and staying tight defensively,” said Laney Coach Dustin Bienas. “I think towards the end we fouled too much, which allowed Hoggard to serve balls in and they got one in a scrum in the final minute. What can you say? It’s a learning experience for the girls. This might happen again come playoffs, so all you can do is learn from it. I think we did everything else to put us in a position to win.
“We had our chances. They had their chances. I was just happy to see our girls play a lot better than our first match.”
While the Bucs tried to pack things in from a defensive standpoint with a one goal lead and minutes remaining, Hoggard drew a foul to set up the free kick from 30 yards out. Western Carolina commit Sayres McKenna stepped up and sent a beautiful ball into a packed penalty box as Huckabee moved forward from back line. She was able to fight through the scrum and found herself in the right spot at the right time to secure the game-tying goal.
“Sayres sent a great ball and I saw it fall in front of me with girls all over the floor,” said Huckabee. “I was able to get just enough room to send it in. We knew it was going to be a fight coming into tonight and we were definitely a little discouraged when they went up, but we just kept going and pushed forward.”
Laney was at the doorstep in the early stages of overtime with three straight corner kicks before Shand tallied her 18th score of the season in the 90th minute.
Prior to the goal, the best opportunity for the Bucs came early in the first half when Butorovich sent in a corner kick to the far post. The ball deflected right to Sydni Simpson inside the 18-yard line, but the freshman’s shot sailed just over the crossbar.
“We almost got one in the first half and it was right there,” said Bienas. “All our defenders have stepped up. Defensively, you can’t ask for anything more as a coach. At this point we’re just trying to find another attacking play with Anna Rae [Porcelli] not 100 percent. We’re going to rotate some people up top to hopefully give us some better scoring chances.”
Simpson, Lindsey Hyde and Briley Eason were a key piece to the Bucs’ strong play in the back, while Huckabee, Tar Poteat and Caroline Lemly countered with a strong defensive effort for the Vikings.
Hoggard had a pair of chances in the second half after Jess Bennion took possession just across midfield and sent a forward pass to Siara Southerland. Laney keeper Sydney Young was in position to make a key save in the match off the strike along the left edge of the penalty area, while Emily Accattato fired the rebound opportunity just over goal with an open net.
Young played a strong game in net for the Bucs with several key stops in the waning minutes of regulation, while Hannah Wagner matched her counterpart on the opposite goal line.
“Sydney [Young] made some big saves for them and it was a bit of a letdown when we gave up that goal,” said Schatz. “We kept pushing them and we were fortunate to get that call in the last 20 seconds. We’re excited about the chance to be able to win conference. We’re not going to overlook anyone and will take one game at a time.”
Hoggard has two games remaining in the regular season beginning on Tuesday, May 5 at home against West Brunswick. Laney returns to the pitch on Tuesday at Ashley.