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Tormenta women's squad clinches win in final moments
Tormenta USLW
Tormenta's Smith Cathey (27) works the ball up through the midfield during Monday night's 1-0 victory over Tennessee SC in Statesboro.

For 88 minutes, South Georgia Tormenta FC’s USLW team kept knocking at the door, trying to find the key to break down the Tennessee Soccer Club’s defense. And for 88 minutes, every Tormenta attack was denied.

But in the 89th minute, Kiana Jacobson was able to break free inside the Tennessee box and was there when a cross from Emma Tucker found her. Jacobson was able to get just enough on the ball to get it past the Tennessee goalkeeper Taiana Tolleson to give the reigning league champions the 1-0 win for their first victory of the season.

“I just could tell, by the way (Emma) was moving that she was getting that ball,” Jacobson said of Tucker’s run down the right side. “ And I knew myself, I was like, ‘I have to be there for her’ and I think it was just mutual trust. 

“When I was talking to her, she said she lost me but she trusted someone was there. And I trusted she was getting into that ball, and I just needed a touch. I literally laid my body on the line, I just slid, got a touch on it, and that's all I needed,” Jacobson, of Highline College, said.

Tormenta Head Coach Jim Robbins said the win was “super important,” especially following last Friday’s loss that saw them give up two late goals to fall 2-1 in their home opener.

“I’m excited that they just kept going and kept plugging away,” he said. “Kiana comes in and she’s on the field for 15 minutes and gets a little nip in the right spot around the keeper. It’s great for our kids and hopefully we can build off this going into (our next match) Thursday.”

Robbins said that three games into the season, he’s pleased with how his team is playing. 

“We are, 100 percent, we want the ball. Possess. Build. Change the point of attack,” he said. “To do what we did on Friday and the way that we did it was great to see. To back that up  with another game tonight on a quick turnaround is fantastic.”

Tormenta had multiple scoring opportunities in the first half but never could quite find the finishing touches needed to score. Perhaps their best opportunity came in the 40th minute on a free kick from Peyton Chick from about 40 yards out.

Chick lifted a pass into the box where it found the head of midfielder Abby Gemza who redirected it on target, but Tolleson was there for the save.

Tormenta had another great opportunity in the 73rd minute when they were able to draw a foul in the box, resulting in a penalty kick. Tess Werts shot to the lower left corner wasn’t quite hard enough and Tolleson was able to make the save.

While Tennessee’s keeper was busy Monday night, South Georgia goalkeeper Keara Fitzgerald had a slow day at the office thanks to the play of her teammates in front of her.

“It was a pretty easy game for me, it was nice,” she said.

Fitzgerald, who played her college ball at UC San Diego, only joined the team this week but quickly gelled with her teammates and felt comfortable playing behind them. 

“I’ve been able to understand pretty quickly how they play and, possession wise, I feel continent with my feet. And I just have to give credit to the players in front of me. They were doing a wonderful job.”

Robbins also credited his defense with a well played game. “If we’re going 90 minutes and they’re having zero shots, or really, zero looks at goal, we’re going to win a lot of games” he said. 

Fitzgerald said she had never been to the eastern part of the country so that was one of the draws to playing for Tormenta. Another was the style and level of soccer Tormenta is known for.

“We’re playing exceptional soccer and it makes me so incredibly happy to be a part of this team,” she said.

Jacobson echoed Fitzgerald’s sentiments.

“Coming in here, everyone feels like we have something to uphold,” she said. “All the eyes are on us. We have the (championship) patch on our sleeve. We have something to prove and to uphold in ourselves.

“But it’s also fun. It’s exciting because everyone is going to give you a good game and everyone is going to challenge you,” she said.

While pleased with his team’s performance, Robbins knows there’s still improvements to be made in the young season. Among those are more consistency in finishing and scoring.

“We’re going to continue to work on serving and finishing. We did that a lot last year and about halfway through it paid dividends for us after a slow start. So we’re going to continue to work on that and if that’s the only thing we have to work on, we’re super excited about that,” he said. 

Tormenta returns to action Thursday when they travel to play SC United Bantams. They’ll return for their next home match Sunday, June 4.