Lady Cyclones drop regional final in 2 OTs

By Allen LaMountain

   The WWF may have coined the phrase "Battle Royal," but the Elizabethton Lady Cyclones and University High played one out between the lines at Anglin Field on Thursday night.
   In the fifth minute of the second overtime session, Lady Buccaneers senior Stacey Keller blasted a free kick past EHS goalkeeper Maria Francisco for what would be the winning goal in a 3-2 overtime victory for UH.
   The win gave the Lady Bucs the Region 1-A/AA crown for the second straight season, and was UH's second consecutive 3-2 OT win over EHS in a week.
   "This was a very intense game," said Keller, whose team had played its second playoff game in two nights. "It was hard to keep our momentum up, but we dug deep inside. I don't know how, but we did."
   Keller's goal capped a tough, physical match that saw the Lady Cyclone junior fullback Ashley Mottern go down with a possible fractured leg with just two minutes left on the overtime clock.
   Mottern had been a force on this night for 'Betsy, clearing away shots and challenging any opponent that confronted her with the ball.
   "Ashley was playing real well tonight," said EHS head coach Bill McClay. "I hope that she's all right. She was our best defender tonight. I don't think she let one ball get past her."
   Mottern's injury caused a 25-minute delay as the rescue squad ambulance was called, and the layoff and severity of their teammate's injury took a lot out of the Lady Cyclones, who had been putting pressure on UH when Mottern went down.
   University High grabbed the early lead in the first half when Elizabeth Bearfield capitalized on a lapse in the EHS midfield and dribbled into the 'Betsy goalbox. Bearfield then sent a shot on goal that found the net and staked UH to a one-nil advantage.
   "I was pleased with the way we came out and attacked right away," said UH head coach Val Love. "We didn't want to fall behind like we did the last time against (EHS)."
   After the break, EHS put on a clinic of how to press forward in the early going of the second half, and Samantha McClay finished by dribbling into the UH goalbox from the corner and slashed toward Lady Bucs goalkeeper Elizabeth Burke.
   McClay beat Burke just inside the pipes to knot the contest at 1-1 in the 43rd minute of play.
   Elizabethton continued to press the attack with crisp midfield passing and some solid defense from Mottern, Farrah Fritz, Laurean Hughes and Abby Jenkins on the backline.
   However, after holding off two 'Betsy runs, the Lady Bucs grabbed a 2-1 lead when Torey Crane scored off a corner kick from Keller.
   Keller's kick went into the front of the Lady Cyclone goal, where it went through several pairs -- with the Lady Cyclones desperately trying to clear it out -- before Crane finally lifted the ball into the top right corner of the goal.
   "That second goal (UH) got was us not clearing the ball out of there," said Coach McClay. "The ball bounced around in there for a long time, and you can't really fault anyone for that."
   With time winding down in regulation, Ashley Green got the ball in front of the UH box and sent a pass inside. UH's Anna Floyd tried to send the ball back, but the ball spun backward and Samantha McClay did not waste the opportunity.
   McClay dribbled in toward Burke, juked left and shot right. The ball eluded Burke to her low right side to send the contest into the first extra session.
   The first 10 minutes passed with neither team scoring, but in the second extra session Keller was taken down just outside the 'Betsy goalbox, setting her up with a free kick squarely in front of the 'Betsy goal from about 20 yards away.
   Keller nailed it over the outstretched hands of Francisco to turn the tide once and for all toward the Lady Junior Bucs.
   "I went for the goal right away," said Keller. "I wanted to put a hard shot at goal with the opportunity. This is such a big win, especially because it's my senior year."
   When asked how she felt her team would respond to EHS scoring the tying goal in the last minute of regulation to force overtime, Love replied: "I was a little worried, but we had been through this against them just last week. We talked about momentum and that we had to get it back. It's a great win and was exciting for the girls who worked so hard. I think this will be the spark that fuels this rivalry (between UH and EHS) for years to come."