The Mason County girls’ soccer team was hungry for goals heading into their 38th District semifinal match with St. Patrick on Tuesday, after settling for a 2-2 tie at the beginning of the season.
The Lady Royals took a 4-0 lead into halftime, before being forced to survive a 7-6 shootout with the Lady Saints with the help of two second-half goals from Rachel Payne, who finished with a career-high six goals on the night.
“Rachel is a pivotal player for us because, not only can she get the ball forward and get it in the back of the net, but she’s also good at reading the game and knowing when to distribute and when to take those chances and move it forward,” said Mason County coach Amy Cottam.
Payne entered the contest with a team-leading 20 goals scored in the regular season and quickly added to that total on Tuesday. The sophomore broke open the scoring in the fifth minute when she dribbled down the left side of the field and placed a low shot past St. Patrick keeper Olivia Poczatek.
She added her second goal as Poczatek charged toward her in the 17th minute and capped off the hat trick just over a minute later to give Mason County a 3-0 advantage. The Lady Royals added another with only 10.8 seconds left in the half when Payne dribbled across the box and lifted a shot toward the net that hit the fingertips of Poczatek before hitting the crossbar and entering the goal.
“One of our big things was to come in thinking we could do it, but don’t overthink it,” said Payne. “That played a big part in that.”
But St. Patrick wasn’t about to call it quits against the in-town rival.
After an initial save from Mason County keeper Riley Durham – who was playing in place of an injured Alexis Adams – Allison Hughes cleaned up the rebound to get the Lady Saints on the board in the 43rd minute.
“We normally play really strong in the second half, so I think they got that in mind,” said St. Patrick coach Javier Cardenas. “The score was 4-0. It was something I think they got a boost on.”
St. Patrick made it a two-goal game in the 49th minute when Chloe Little scored off a corner and Libby Gallenstein made it 4-3 with another set-piece goal in the 52nd minute.
“We practice that – the corner kicks – very often,” said Cardenas. “I think they got a lot out of that.”
Maddie McDowell provided some breathing room for Mason County four minutes later when the Lady Royals got a counterattack off of one of the Lady Saints’ eight second-half corner kicks. McDowell beat Poczatek to a bouncing ball as it entered the box and chipped it up and in, making it 5-3.
“I told them, ‘You have to go in like it’s 0-0 again. We’ve got to play tough.’ The difference for us in the second half with when they started getting some of the goals was that we were getting some of the balls up, but our halfbacks, for some reason, were sitting too far back,” said Cottam. “Once we can get them all working together and get them back in sync, that seemed to help us.”
And then the back-and-forth contest continued.
Little added her second goal in the 61st minute by charging down the left side of the field and putting a shot off the hands of Durham that then hit the post and bounced across the face of the goal. It hit the post on the other side before Little chased it down and finished it to get the Lady Saints back within a goal at 5-4.
Four minutes later, it was Payne getting back in on the action. She weaved her way through the St. Patrick defense before putting a shot into the back of the net with her right foot to give the Lady Royals a two-goal cushion.
The Lady Saints found their fourth different scorer of the night with under nine minutes remaining and it came on another corner. With eight players packed into the box, Justina Klee came up with the finish to make it 6-5.
Payne continued to dominate, and less than a minute after Klee scored, she cut around Poczatek and put the ball into the goal for the sixth time in the semifinal game.
“At halftime, I was thinking that we’ve got to keep going in strong, we’ve got to keep doing it, and then once they got those goals, I think our whole team kind of got frazzled and we started rushing, but when I was taking it down the middle I was just like, ‘I’ve got to weave it in because they’ll come full force at you,’” said Payne.
St. Patrick added another goal with just under five minutes remaining when Little deflected a ball off her body and in to complete the hat trick, but the Lady Saints couldn’t find another from there.
St. Patrick finishes the season at 1-10-2 and return 11 of the 13 players listed on their roster.
The win moves Mason County to 6-5-3 and into the 10th Region Tournament for the fourth straight season. The Lady Royals will next face Harrison County in Thursday’s 38th District championship game, which is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. The Fillies beat Pendleton County, 10-0, in the first semifinal of the tournament.
LADY ROYALS 7, LADY SAINTS 6
Goals: (MC) Payne 5th minute, (MC) Payne 17th minute, (MC) Payne 18th minute, (MC) Payne 40th minute, (SP) Hughes 43rd minute, (SP) Little 49th minute, (SP) Gallenstein 52nd minute, (MC) McDowell 56th minute, (SP) Little 61st minute, (MC) Payne 65th minute, (SP) Klee 72nd minute, (MC) Payne 72nd minute, (SP) Little 76th minute
Shots (On goal): St. Patrick 18 (13), Mason County 32 (22)
Corner Kicks: St. Patrick 11, Mason County 2
Saves: St. Patrick 15 (Poczatek), Mason County 7 (Durham/Brophy)
Records: St. Patrick 1-10-2, Mason County 6-5-3