COVINGTON, Ga. — On the heels of their 11-3 win over Region 4-AAAA foe Luella Wednesday, the Eastside Lady Eagles (8-1-1, 3-1 4-AAAA) entered Friday night’s match with Dawson County (6-1-1) flying high and came away with a 1-1 draw with Dawson.
The Lady Tigers entered the fray ranked No. 5 in Class AAA and on a six-game winning streak while surrendering just three goals.
Meanwhile, the The Lady Eagles arrived on a 4-game winning streak of their own in which they had outscored their opposition 41-3, the most goals scored in a four-game stretch in program history. Eastside won five straight games in 2010 by a total of 42-2 and went on to win a sixth match to stretch the spread to 46-2.
But on Friday, Eastside played its match without their starting goalkeeper Anna Shelton who was out with an injury. Freshman Katie Oakley filled in with a brilliant performance, making countless saves and defensive plays clearing or collecting the ball to repeatedly repel the Dawson County attack.
It was a physical match from the onset, and the Lady Tigers got on the scoreboard first with 23:30 left in the first half when leading scorer Molly Muenchen sent a cross from the right to Rachel Rajczak who put the ball in the back of the Eastside net to make it 1-0.
The play of the match was made at the 29:20 mark of the second stanza. A shot by Muenchen from close range was partially deflected by Oakley but dangerously remained in play and rolled along the Eastside goal line. Lady Eagle defender McKenna Walker cleared the ball off the goal line before it could cross the line for a Dawson County goal that would have given the Lady Tigers a 2-0 lead.
With 26:32 to play in the game, Eastside’s Aralyn Everett stole the ball from a Lady Tiger, drove down the right sideline and crossed the ball to Elizabeth Ozburn whose hard shot careened off teammate Mya Cummings and into the Dawson County goal for the equalizer.
After the match Eastside coach Joel Singleton reflected on his squad’s performance against one of the state’s best teams.
"We battled a very good Dawson County team today,” Singleton said. “It was a highly competitive game with both teams playing hard. I was very proud of our effort in the second half. We tied it up and had ample opportunities to go ahead but the Dawson goalkeeper made several strong plays on us."
Singleton also praised the play of Oakley, his backup keeper.
"Katie Oakley filled in at goalkeeper and was excellent,” he said. “I knew she'd do a great job. We just really missed having her on the field."
On the boys side, the Eastside Eagles (8-1-1, 4-0 in Region 4-AAAA) figured to have an easier time of it against a winless Dawson County Tigers team (0-7).
Fresh off a 4-2 win over a previously undefeated Luella squad, the Eagles currently sit in first place in the region while maintaining their No. 5 Class AAAA ranking — the highest of any Eastside soccer team, boys or girls, in the school's 23-year varsity program history.
But the game proved to be tighter than expected early.
The first half finished with Eastside leading 1-0 on a Chris Overfelt rebound of a corner kick volley with 15:59 left to play. Eagles keeper Jackson Hamby made a big save on a Tiger shot in the corner of the net in the final minute to preserve that lead.
Overfelt pushed the lead to 2-0 just over four minutes into the second half on a strike down the middle of the field. Dawson County responded with a goal by Riley Herndon at the 28:44 mark to make it 2-1.
The Tigers’ goal seemed to awaken the Eagles’ offense. Kade Mote scored twice in one minute on the game clock — the first off an Overfelt corner kick at 26:54, and the second from a rebounded shot off the Tigers’ keeper with 25:56 remaining.
Jackson Jolley created the next Eastside goal when his cross was knocked into the Tigers’ goal for an own goal with 12:37 left. It looked as if the match would end 5-1 until senior Caleb Herron netted his first varsity goal as time expired.
The Eagles, now 8-1-1, are off to their best start in program history. The 2009 Eagles started 12-2 before losing in the first round of the state playoffs.
The Lady Eagles will next hit the pitch Tuesday night for a match with Class AAAAAA No. 7 Heritage (9-2, 7-0 in Region 3-AAAAAA) at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Homer Sharp Stadium. The Eagles boys will play Heritage (8-3, 5-2 3-AAAAAA) at 7:30 p.m. in the nightcap.