SPRINGFIELD -- Effingham County's girls soccer team advanced to the second round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs in thrilling fashion Tuesday at Rebel Field.
After overtime against Houston County ended in a scoreless tie, Bailee Hildebrandt, Makayla Mazzarello and Kylie Malcon connected on successive penalty kicks to stake the Lady Rebels to a 3-0 advantage. The Lady Bears then answered with two goals to set up a dramatic conclusion.
After thwarting three penalty kicks with leaping or diving blocks, Lady Rebels goalie Sydney Martinez -- because of an injury to Cat Hall -- was called on by coach Blake Kessler to put the ball in the net. She obliged, sending her team to a 4-2 edge that negated the need for additional kicks.
"I don't like to have my goalkeeper take PKs because I like them to be focused on one thing," Kessler said, "but with Cat out of the question my next choice was Sydney."
Hall, nursing a sore hip, got hurt in a collision with the Houston County goalie with just under two minutes left in overtime. She stayed on the ground for a few seconds before wobbling to the bench.
"She wasn't physically or mentally ready to take a kick at that point and Sydney is reliable," Kessler said.
Martinez can be counted on defensively, too. Supported by stellar play by the teammates directly in front of her, she turned in her customary sturdy performance in the net.
"If we've got to go into PKs, I'm glad we've got Sydney Martinez as our goalkeeper," Kessler said. "She had a good day. They didn't challenger her a whole lot but she had some stops."
See the May 2 edition of the Effingham Herald for more details.