BROOKLET — After a pair of recent discouraging losses, it seemed like the state playoff hopes of the Southeast Bulloch girls were fading.
A home date against an imposing Dublin squad didn’t figure to help matters, but the Lady Yellow Jackets fought through adversity, coming back from a 1-0 deficit to force overtime before winning 3-1 on penalty kicks Monday evening at Fred Shaver Field.
“This was huge for us,” said SEB coach Kristen Barnhill. “We had struggled for a few games. When we got behind, it was a spot where we could have given up. Instead, we kept our heads up and kept fighting. I was really proud of our effort.”
SEB was solid throughout, but Dublin struck in the 30th minute when a corner kick glanced off the hands of Jacket goalkeeper Kaitlyn White and found the net for a 1-0 lead.
Undaunted, the Jackets dominated possession throughout the rest of regulation, determined to find an equalizer.
The Fighting Irish defense was initially unyielding, but the constant pressure finally wore down the back lines and a Dublin miscue in its own box in the 63rd minute allowed Morgan Friend to slip one through to tie it up.
“We did a great job of pressuring with the ball,” said Barnhill. “We just kept getting after it and eventually broke through.”
Faced with penalty kicks, White made amends on the earlier miscue.
Each team scored on one of its first two kicks before White deflected a shot into the crossbar and harmlessly back into play.
Mary Kate Schlierf put the Jackets ahead 2-1 after the third round with a laser into the top of the net and White came up big again, lunging to her right for another save.
Given the opportunity to end things with one kick, Tori Mullis did just that, blasting a low strike into the left corner of the net to seal the win.
“It was crazy out there,” said White. “I was nervous, but I made some reads and got some saves. I knew my teammates would keep scoring.”
With the win, SEB clinches a spot in the Georgia High School Association state playoffs.
The Jackets host Jefferson County tonight at 7 p.m. with a chance to clinch third place in Region 3-AA.
Dublin 1, SEB 0
The Southeast Bulloch boys soccer team is primed for a run in the Georgia High School Association state playoffs, but came up just short against one of the best Class-AA teams in the state Monday night as Dublin escaped with a controversial 1-0 victory.
SEB (8-5, 8-3 Region 3-AA) matched Dublin step for step in the opening minutes, but had the wind taken out of its sails on a tough break.
In the 17th minute, David McManus was bumped as he dribbled out of the SEB box. McManus didn’t appear to be shooting or looking for a pass and was nearly out of the box, but was awarded a penalty kick which he blasted into the left side of the net for a 1-0 lead.
Aside from McManus’s goal, the difference in the game proved to be Dublin’s defense.
The Jackets were able to mount a handful of runs up the field and registered three corner kicks, but the Irish back line stifled almost everything and SEB managed just one clean shot on goal.
The loss eliminated SEB from contention for the No. 2 seed out of its region — which would have awarded the Jackets a home playoff game — but can secure the No. 3 seed with a win over Jefferson County today at 5 p.m.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.