By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
Five days after winning the USL W Golden Glove award, symbolic of the league’s top goalie, Sydney Martinez showed why with another stellar performance Saturday night.
The former-Effingham County High School standout was almost a brick wall in goal for her summer league club, South Georgia Tormenta FC while capturing more accolades – the MVP trophy – in her team’s 2-1 overtime victory over the Minnesota Aurora FC for the inaugural championship of the women’s soccer league.
Tormenta finished with a 10-1-4 record while winning the South Central Division title and capturing playoff wins on the road against undefeated Miami City FC, the Greenville Liberty SC and the undefeated Aurora.
Martinez’s huge role in the success should only add to her confidence this fall when she competes in her fifth year at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
Martinez entered the championship game with an 0.58 goals against average in a league that touts itself as a pre-professional league. The 44 teams in seven divisions were mostly made up of college players and some overseas professionals.
Martinez’s last game before heading back to Tampa provided another signature moment in a storied career well-known by local soccer followers.
A sellout crowd of 6,489 jammed TCO Stadium, which is part of the Minnesota Vikings’ practice facility, to cheer on the Aurora but Martinez was a party pooper. And she was extra special in extra time. Just six minutes into the first overtime period (teams play two 15-minute overtime periods if a game is tied after regulation), she used all of her 6-foot-2 height and leaping ability to punch a long drive just over the crossbar.
Martinez’s biggest save of the night came with about nine minutes left in the second overtime period. Tormenta was called for a handball in the penalty box to set up an Aurora penalty kick.
But Martinez, diving to her right, got a hand on the shot, deflecting it off the goalpost and keeping the game tied.
Four minutes later, Jaida Nyby scored the game-winner for the Tormenta.
Ex-SEHS pitcher Hare signs with Giants
Former South Effingham righthander Davis Hare has signed an undrafted free agent contract with the San Francisco Giants, according to Noles247.com sports writer Brett Nevitt.
Hare, a 6-foot-3, 219-pounder, had a 3.72 earned run average with 52 strikeouts in 36.1 innings at Florida State University last season. He compiled a 1-4 record with four saves.
Hare was a standout during his high school career with the Mustangs. He registered an 11-1 record as a junior, helping the team reach the Class AAAAA state semifinals in 2016.
Local prep players put on pads Aug. 1
South Effingham and Effingham County high school football players completed summer camps on July 21. A five-day heat and humidity acclimation period followed, and upon completion in accordance with Georgia High School Association guidelines, athletes could begin practice in full pads (helmets, shoulder pads and padded football pants) on Aug. 1.
During the summer, players work out voluntarily (with coaches' instruction) in just shorts and helmets.
“Obviously, you see who can block and who can tackle and who can finish plays (once pads are added),” Mustangs coach Nathan Clark said. “You get some of that in padded camps but now running backs will have the opportunity to break tackles and quarterbacks have to elude pressure knowing they could get hit. And the defense can take them to the ground. You’re going to know a lot more about your team once they put on pads.”
It’s a big step because the football season isn’t far away. SEHS opens on the road against Vidalia on Aug. 19. ECHS travels to Richmond Hill on the same night.
The Mustangs will scrimmage Southeast Bulloch and the Rebels will scrimmage Screven County on Aug. 12.
The high school softball, cross country and volleyball teams also begin workouts officially Aug. 1.