For the second straight year, the Wakulla High girls soccer team had Catholic’s number.
This time, the visiting Lady War Eagles were pushed to their limit as it took a breakaway goal late in the first overtime session to claim victory Tuesday night in the Region 1-2A quarterfinal game at Catholic.
It was the late heroics of Catholic’s Audrey Presnell, however, that gave the Lady Crusaders extra life.
With less than a minute remaining in regulation, it looked bleak for Catholic. After several missed opportunities on shots on goal, Catholic regained control. The opposing keeper thwarted off one attempt, but the ball grazed off a Wakulla player, and Presnell came through in the clutch with the put back in net, just past a diving Shelby Alsup.
“I felt dizzy. I felt sick after scoring it,” Presnell said. “It was really exciting. I was close to giving up, but my teammates were yelling at me not to, and it paid off.”
However, the new-found exuberance was short-lived.
With Catholic in control at Wakulla’s end, Cheyenne Whittington took possession and broke free from the pack, outracing a defender towards Catholic’s goal. The keeper aggressively made a move to defend, but Whittington booted in the game-winner to send Wakulla to the next round of the playoffs next week.
“I knew I wanted it, and I wanted it for my team, so I just went for it,” Whittington said. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. They blocked many shots on defense, and sent me a perfect ball to score with.”
Despite the loss, Catholic head coach Mark Yepishin was impressed with his team’s overall effort, something he emphasized all season.
“I asked effort from the girls, and that’s exactly what they gave me,” Yepishin said. “I believe that we were the better team. Sometimes in soccer the better team doesn’t win. We made a few defensive mistakes, and that’s what cost us the game.
“These girls did everything I asked them to the whole year. It’s a sad way to end it, but I’m also very, very proud of all of them.”
After a Wakulla steal, Whittington drove past a defender then made a nifty maneuver around another before connecting on a shot to the back right corner for a 1-0 lead.
But barely over a minute later, Catholic countered with a goal by Tayler Kukes from outside the box to even the score.
The teams traded possessions the next several minutes before Nikki Barnes headed in a goal off a kick from Aliya Callaghan with 4:30 left until halftime.
The Lady Crusaders had one last first-half chance, as Kukes was knocked down driving towards the goal. But her penalty kick was deflected.