Mavs Win Upstate 3 : 2 in Overtime

  It was everything it was supposed to be.  The two best teams in the Upstate squaring off with everything on the line.  Their own private rubber match that would provide the winner with a trip to Memorial Stadium, and the loser with thoughts of what might have been.  The coaches had done all they could, the fans eager to do their part – it was all up to the players.

     The Mavs showed their intentions early with intense pressure in midfield and numerous probing runs, crosses and passes.  Riverside tried to slow the initial pace with big balls out of the back and tactical fouls.  One of these challenges cost them.  Sarah Tuggle played the ball to the edge of the box trying to find Emily.  A Riverside defender made a desperate clearance that was intercepted by an alert Gina Cardenas.  She used a touch to shift the ball left before firing a 22 yard blast into the upper right corner to give the Mavs the lead in the fourth minute.  The pressure continued with several corners, blocked shots and good runs.  The few balls that found their way back were easily dealt with by the defense.  Caitland Considine’s first touch did not come until the 21st minute and her first save in the 26th.  The game settled down to a battle between the boxes, occasionally interrupted by long balls and fouls.  Two of these back-to-back were to cost Riverside again.  After Sarah got rolled, Gina fired the free kick to Emily waiting at the top of the arc.  A shove in the back by Riverside resulted in a direct kick from the same spot Gina had scored from.  This time Sarah Tuggle fired her shot over the wall and tucked it neatly under the crossbar. With 5 minutes left in the half, the Mavs found themselves with the most dangerous lead in the game -  2:0.  And sure enough it happened.  After a great defensive stop, the clearance only made it as far as the top of the box where a surprised Warrior hit it one-touch into the bottom left corner.  With no time to react, Caitland came within inches of making the stop.  A shocked Maverick side tried to get it back but the half ended 2:1

     In the second half the give and take battle continued.  Sarah had a point blank shot saved after a great run by Maggie Cowley and the shot from the Riverside counterattack curled just wide past Caitland’s outstretched hands.  The Mavs pressed their attack and Emily Praktish had her shot fingertip saved at the right post.  After a questionable collision at the top of the arc, Riverside’s free kick was easily gathered by Caitland.  Just over a minute later, tragedy struck when a Riverside player went down in the box.  Caitland guessed correctly, but the spot kick slid past her fingers.  The controversy and goal seemed to provide the spark for the Mavs.   Challenges came quicker, marking tighter, passes sharper and the ball began to find the girls feet.  As the Mavs’ pressure increased, so did their confidence and the opportunities.  Though the girls did not find the net, you could tell something was coming.

     The Mavs began the first overtime with a flourish and pinned the ball deep in the Riverside half where it stayed for most of the period.  The occasional long clearance bounced harmlessly to Caitland who promptly returned past midfield.  It was one of these long punts that would spark the night.  With a minute to play in the first overtime, Caitland punted long and high to midfield.  After a bounce, Gracie flicked the ball over and behind her marker and immediately spun to give chase.  Catching the ball just inside the right corner of the box, Gracie’s only touch slid the ball under the rushing keeper, caroming off the inside of the left post.  With that simple, elegant shot, the Mavs had booked their place in the AAAA State Final.  In the second overtime, the Mavs continued to press the attack and generated several opportunities while limiting Riverside to two offensive possessions.  The Mav defense comfortably turned back the attacks limiting their opponent to a single shot on goal.  When the final whistle blew, the students stormed the field to share in the team’s celebration.  An electric game that lived up to the hype and tradition, tonight’s victory is one for the girls to be very proud of.