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Lady Rebels to host first-round state playoff game
Effingham County's Bailee Hildebrandt (left) and Makayla Mazzarello celebrate Hildebrandt's goal in the first half of their game against Richmond Hill on April 10 at Rebel Field. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

SPRINGFIELD — The Effingham County Lady Rebels are breathing rarefied air these days.
On April 10, they became just the second girls soccer team in school history to clinch a first-round home game in the state playoffs.
Effingham County achieved the historic feat by edging Richmond Hill 3-1.
"Be very proud of yourself," Lady Rebels coach Blake Kessler told the team in the postgame huddle. "You set out to achieve something and you did it."
It was the Lady Rebels' second win over the Lady Wildcats this season, another uncommon occurrence.
"This was a big night for us," Kessler said. "This puts us in an awesome spot to finish second (in Region 2-AAAAAA), which, to my knowledge, the girls program here has done only once before. It puts us in an awesome spot to host in the playoffs."
Kessler's team controlled the flow of the game against the Lady Wildcats for most of the way.
"We did a lot of good things today," he said. "We created a lot of good offensive chances. We didn't finish on some of them but they did a good job of creating some angles that could be attacked by the back post.
"Thankfully, that worked out for us."
The Lady Rebels' defense was consistently tough, too, except a breakdown that allowed a first-half goal to a speedy attacker.
Effingham County led 2-1 at halftime.
"I told the girls to play like they were a goal down and not a goal up," Kessler said. "A goal up is a bad spot to be in. The other team has nothing to lose and you have everything to lose.
"... I think our girls were very committed to winning today and it paid off."
Bailee Hildebrandt gave the Lady Rebels a 1-0 lead by scoring on a penalty kick. Cameron Long, despite not feeling well, tallied Effingham County's other goals.