The Bulloch Academy Lady Gator soccer team had played well at home all season and this weekend they got the good news that because of inclement weather predicted for Monday they would host Cristo Rey, the No. 5 seed out of Atlanta in the opening round of the state GISA tournament. The Gators looked primed for an upset as they were up 3-1 in the second half, but the Flames came back to score three unanswered goals and won 4-3 in overtime.
“I’m proud of the way these girls played against a team that was ranked fifth in the state,” said Gator coach John Paul Padilla. “Any time you have a 3-1 lead and aren’t able to finish off with a win you are frustrated, but our girls gave it all they had, and I am proud of them and their effort.”
The Gators started the scoring only minutes into the game as a goal kick from Claiborne Jones bounced high into the air. Gator freshman Jordan Taulbee headed the ball ahead, tracked it down and fired a blast from about 25-yards away that found the back of the net for a 1-0 Gator lead.
“That was Jordan’s first goal of the year,” said Padilla. “She is just a freshman and has played a ton of big minutes for us, and I am happy we will have her for the next three years.”
The Gators extended their lead to 2-0 a few minutes later. Senior Liv Finley took a short pass from eighth grader Addie Becker and fired a shot from about 20 yards away past the keeper as the Gators looked to be in control.
“We have been working on that shot all year with Liv and it finally paid off,” said Padilla. “She is an absolute beast out there and we will really miss her next season.”
The Flames were finally able to get on the board with just under two minutes to go in the half. A loose ball in front of the goal was eventually headed into the net by Angie Garces to cut the Gator lead to 2-1.
Bulloch Academy came right back to extend the lead back to two early in the second half. Deep in Flame territory Taulbee did a great job of centering the ball through traffic where a sliding Becker quickly put it past the keeper to give the Gators a 3-1 lead.
“Jordan really had the game of her life as she had a great cross to Addie,” said Padilla. “Addie is just an eighth grader, but she definitely knows how to finish, and she did it again today.”
The lead remained 3-1 until with 18:36 left in the game Stephany Uballe took a free kick from 35-yards away and got it just over the extended arms of Jones in the goal to cut the Gator lead to 3-2.
Less than two minutes later the Flames were able to tie the game as a shot by Garces was deflected right to Sydney Robinson all alone on the left side of the goal. She kicked it in and tied the game at 3-3.
With the game tied at 3-3 after regulation things would go to overtime. Early in the 10-minute first overtime session Garces spun and shot quickly from 10-yards out past a diving Jones for what proved to be the game winner as the Gators fell 4-3 ending their season.
After the game Padilla reflected on the season and the state of the Lady Gator soccer program after having the 2020 season halted because of the COVID pandemic.
“We are really going to miss all of our seniors who have really elevated our girls' soccer program including Leah Williford, Liv Finley Sarah Mathis and Tanner Kaiser,” said Padilla. “We were ranked as high as fifth this year but stumbled a bit down the stretch. We start two eighth graders and two freshmen so I hope they can all take some experience from this year and the state playoffs and build on that next season.”