Brock Netter, Staff Writer
JACKSON — Rain stopped falling minutes before game time on Tuesday, but it still made the biggest impact at the biggest moment.
Deadlocked 1-1 in overtime, Logan Elm’s goalkeeper went after a loose ball in the box and slipped on the turf. Jackson’s Kirsten Evans saw it, met the ball with her feet and sent a shot into the back of the net to give the Ironladies (12-5) a 2-1 victory in a Division II sectional semifinal.
“We had a lot of shots during the game that we didn’t finish, but I knew we were going to finish one of those shots at some point,” Jackson senior Taylor Thorpe said of the final sequence. “Something just went through my head and said ‘We’re going to win,’ and Kirsten won it for us.”
Jackson controlled every aspect of the game as possession was mainly held in Logan Elm’s territory.
The Ironladies outshot the Braves by a 25-4 margin, but only managed seven shots on goal throughout the night.
Logan Elm managed little offense but put up a feisty performance that had Jackson off balance for much of the evening.
“[Logan Elm] won a lot of balls in the midfield and it frustrated us a little bit,” Jackson’s Emma Bapst said. “Eventually, towards the end, we started putting passes together and starting playing more thoroughly.”
Through 30 minutes, Jackson had taken every shot in the contest but couldn’t connect on any opportunities, despite solid looks.
The team made one mistake late in the first half as it was called for a handball in the box. Logan Elm’s Riley Schultz then connected with the back of the net on the PK to put the Braves ahead 1-0 at halftime.
As time began to wind down in the second half, Jackson began getting desperate. Its’ hopes of getting to a sectional final continued to look increasingly bleak.
“We had three really good shot on goal attempts and just barely missed them, so we knew a goal was coming soon,” Bapst said.
Although Bapst didn’t score or assist on a goal all evening, her calm demeanor and ability to keep Jackson grounded in the biggest moments shined on the field.
“I came in with the mindset that we were playing the best team in Southern Ohio,” Bapst said. “I knew that I needed to be a solid player in the midfield, win those loose balls and control the field to give ourselves a chance.”
As the clock continued to melt, Jackson began stringing passes together and turning up the intensity. But it was to no avail as it couldn’t get past Logan Elm’s keeper.
Then the Braves got a bit too aggressive defensively and were called for a penalty just inside of the box. That set up Taylor Thorpe with a PK and she connected on the goal to tie the game with less than 10 minutes left.
“I knew I had to score at that moment, for myself and the team,” Thorpe said. “Logan Elm scored on a PK whether it should have happened or not. So we were definitely looking for a goal at that point.”
With the game going to overtime, Jackson had the confidence knowing it had been piercing through the Braves’ defense all night. The Ironladies just needed to finish.
The Braves held firm, despite Jackson still having a number of chances to strike for a goal. But that’s when the elements came into play.
The soccer Gods smiled upon Jackson with 49 seconds left as Evans took advantage of Logan Elm’s slipping for the biggest goal of Jackson’s season.
The team’s challenges will only get tougher from here as the Ironladies advance to a Division II sectional final at 11 a.m., Saturday against Marietta — who defeated Sheridan 8-0 on Tuesday.
Jackson hasn’t won a sectional title since 2017. The last time it faced Marietta was in a sectional final in 2016, a game the Ironladies won 2-1.
“Marietta is a tough team and it’ll be a rough game for us,” Bapst said. “But as long as we play together and stay calm, I believe we can pull out a win.”