Lady Warriors win in golden-goal OT

By BUSTER WOLFE,

HATTIESBURG - Oak Grove High School senior Caymin Blalock was getting tired of playing soccer against powerhouse Ocean Springs on Friday night. So she decided it was time to finish off the Lady Greyhounds.

After almost two hours of soccer – a regulation 80-minute game and 20 seconds left in the third overtime – Blalock stood at the back pole to blast a header off the corner kick by junior Maggie Starns to score the winning goal. The No. 2-ranked Lady Warriors (19-1-2) punched their tickets to the South State showdown against Gulfport with a 3-2 triple-overtime home victory over playoff nemesis No. 7 Ocean Springs (15-7-3).

PHOTO GALLERY: Click for photos from Matt Bush.

Blalock was sharing hugs with teammates after the winning goal.

“I knew I had to score just to get it over with,” she said. “I’m done. We’ve got 20 more seconds in the game; let’s get this over with and go home. My calves actually started getting charley horses and I said, ‘Coach, you’ve got to take me out.’ And he said, ‘Suck it up!’”

For Coach Clay Smith, the victory was an endurance test.

“That was the most amazing game I have coached in my 26 years,” he said. “Ocean Springs is a great team, they are a great class program and the last two or three years, they have been the team that has put us out in these games. I am just so proud of my girls for fighting and finding a way to win.”

The Blalock header off the corner kick was no accident, Smith said.

“We’ve been practicing trying to find her on the back post coming in,” he said. “I don’t even know what to say; I am so proud of them. It told them at halftime to find a way to win, and they found a way to win.”

The Lady Warriors found themselves on the short end of a 1-0 halftime score after Ocean Springs senior co-captain Emma Hunt dribbled to the center and punched in a rocket kick with 6:12 to play in the first half. However, Oak Grove opened the second half with a strong offense, pushing one corner kick with two headers and a point-blank shot that was saved by the Lady Greyhounds goalie at 37:55 to play. And again a corner kick looked to be a goal at 28:42, but it was apparently kicked away.

However, Oak Grove’s Starns sailed a 31-yard penalty kick over the Ocean Springs goalie to tie the game 1-1 with 25:51 to go in regulation. Then the Lady Warriors connected with an assist from eighth-grader Taylor Stewart to senior Lonnie Mulligan for a 2-1 lead with 19:40 to go.

Ocean Springs returned to tie the game 2-2 with 13:19 to play when junior Kaylee Foster was in the right place to convert an expected save by Oak Grove goalie Carlee Blakeney that bounced off her hands. Foster tapped in the tying goal.

Neither team scored in the three overtimes until Blalock’s game-winner, but Smith said he saw a difference in how his team came out after the first 40 minutes.

“We kind of turned it up a notch in the second half and the overtimes,” he said. “We do an extensive running program and that’s for this reason, in case it ever gets to his point. We run really, really hard.”

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