One hundred minutes of tension-filled soccer decided by a nine-second breakaway burst.
Such is the often-cruel nature of sports, which didn’t offer a lot of consolation Tuesday to Polk County’s girls soccer team after watching Hendersonville escape G.M. Tennant Stadium with a 1-0, double-overtime victory.
Julia Ledbetter’s goal with five minutes remaining in the final overtime session settled the matchup of the top two teams at kickoff in the Mountain Foothills 7 Conference. The Bearcats (9-4, 7-0) tightened their grip on first place while the Wolverines (8-3-1, 4-2-1) dropped into a three-way tie for second with Brevard and East Rutherford.
Matches with both of those teams await and will likely settle who receives the league’s second automatic berth into the playoffs. Efforts such as Tuesday’s would undoubtedly serve the Wolverines well in those encounters.
“Coming off the break, we put a really good effort in against the first-place team,” said Polk County head coach Lennox Charles. “We showed that we can, if we play our best, we can compete with them.
“The challenge now is to be consistent and replicate that effort and that performance against the other teams. It’s easy to get up for Hendersonville. Thursday, when we play R-S Central. . . if we go assuming that we’re going to win, we’re going to be in trouble. If we can take this and be consistent with this, we’ll be in really good shape the rest of the season.”
Both teams had opportunities to score in regulation, both teams got solid efforts in goal. Wolverine keeper Maggie McCammon delivered an exceptional performance, notching 22 saves and constantly denying Hendersonville chances.
The deciding moment came midway through the second 10-minute overtime session. Polk was whistled for a foul in the Bearcat end of the field. The referee rolled the ball to the spot of the penalty, where it stopped for a few seconds before a Hendersonville defender quickly took the free kick and sent it deep into Polk’s end of the field.
Ledbetter outraced Polk’s defense to the ball and lifted a left-footed chip that McCammon had no chance to reach, the ball dipping just under the crossbar before settling in the left corner of the net.
Hendersonville then survived two late Wolverine scoring threats, including one following a throw-in where the ball briefly bounced free deep in the penalty area, to hang on for the win.
Polk County will return to G.M. Tennant Stadium on Thursday for that conference matchup with R-S Central, who will be coming off a tie with Brevard. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.