The Valdosta Daily Times
After Chelan Worms’ kick hit the back of the net, Chris Willis put his hand over his heart. He could finally relax after a stressful match to open the Class AAAAAA state playoffs.
Willis watched as Worms kicked Lowndes past Kennesaw Mountain with a 2-1 win that was decided in penalty kicks Tuesday night at Martin Stadium.
“I feel like I can breathe now,” Willis said. “What a great group of underclassmen, seniors, everybody contributing. Nobody is crying about playing time. They just want to play, want to win.”
Worms’ game-winning kick capped off a dominating round of penalty kicks for the Vikettes, which saw them outscore the Mustangs 4-1.
Senior Allison Liu allowed Kennesaw Mountain’s first shot to get passed, before the next sailed high and she blocked the other.
Lowndes made all four of its penalty kicks.
Hannah-Jo Isaacson, Alex Haun and Brooke Madsen all converted before Worms made the final kick, which was followed by a massive celebration in the middle of the field.
“We feel confident,” Willis said. “We feel good. We feel like this is our time. They are confident. Allison is, ‘Hey, come on. Try me. I’ve got it.”
Lowndes was challenged all night. Although the Vikettes entered as the No. 1 seed from Region 1 and the Mustangs the No. 4 seed from Region 4, Willis knew it would be a tough win.
Region 4 is regarded as one of the toughest regions in the state. Top-ranked Harrison hails from Region 4.
“It is one of the best regions in the state,” Willis said. “They came down here two years ago and beat us in PKs. It was 13-14; we were in our third round of kickers. It was a heck of a game. But this time, they have to go home without it. It is a great relief. That is a great region.”
Lowndes will play again Tuesday, against either Alcovy or Douglas County. The game will be at Lowndes’ Martin Stadium, as all girls and boys playoff soccer games will be this postseason.
The Vikettes took a 1-0 lead in the first half when senior Katie Willis, who has already signed with Georgia Southwestern, lofted a ball over the head of the Kennesaw Mountain goalkeeper with 5:25 remaining in the half.
Willis’ goal was set up by nice ball movement from the Vikettes, who had several chances for goals earlier in the half but were called offside on several occasions.
“They came out like fire crackers and we settled down,” Willis said. “We got that goal and you could see that real spark. ‘Hey, we can play with them.’ I think they were unsure at first. You know how it is when you are playing someone new. You are like a heavyweight boxer, feeling each other out. Then finally, they got that score. You could see us pushing.”
Kennesaw Mountain came charging back down the field. With a minute remaining in the half, the Mustangs had a look at the goal, passing the ball across the field to the left side. Luckily for Lowndes, Liu was able to dive to her left and make a game tying save, securing Lowndes’ 1-0 lead.
The Mustangs tied the game at 1-1 with 19:13 remaining in the game, when a shot from the right side barely sailed over Liu’s head. The game remained tied throughout regulation and the two five-minute overtime periods, although both teams had shots clank off the posts.
Kennesaw Mountain had a shot clank off the post with 8:04 remaining and had a shot get saved by a diving Liu with two minutes remaining.
Lowndes’ final chance in regulation came with 1:20 remaining, when Ashley Miller had a corner kick. Kennesaw Mountain cleared the ball and the game went to overtime.
The game had several minutes of emotionally driven plays, including late in the first half when a Lowndes and Kennesaw Mountain player got tangled up and fell to the ground. No yellow or red cards were issued, but tempers flared on the field and in the crowd, with the majority of the Vikettes faithful sending boos from the stands.
That disapproval from the Lowndes fans sparked a few Mustang players to wave their arms toward the crowd, signally the Lowndes fans to continue the booing.
The Lowndes boys will host Kennesaw Mountain in the state playoffs tonight. The game is set to begin at 6 p.m.