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SOCCER: Aralyn Everett, strong defense propels No. 9 Eastside past Richmond Academy and into Elite Eight
Eastside girls soccer
The Eastside Lady Eagles soccer team will host No. 5 Blessed Trinity Tuesday at Sharp Stadium in the first Elite Eight state playoff game in program history. -Submitted Photo

AUGUSTA, Ga. — The Eastside Lady Eagles soccer team made history Wednesday night by taking down Richmond Academy 1-0 in overtime. 

Sophomore striker Aralyn Everett notched the game-winning goal, her 34th score of the season, in the first minute of the extra frame to catapult No. 9 Eastside (15-3-1) into the Class AAAA Elite Eight. It’s the Eagles’ first trip to the Elite Eight in program history. 

Eastside had multiple opportunities to score in the opening stanza but were turned away or stopped by speedy Richmond Academy defenders and their goalkeeper Camille Leibach.

It could have easily been 5-0 Eastside at the half, given the amount of shots on goal the Lady Eagles had, but halftime offered up a scoreless tie. 

Everett, Katie Oakley, Bailey Love, Lizzie Teasley, Mya Cummings and Liz Ozburn all came close to netting a goal. Although there may have been frustration at the inability to score, the Lady Eagles kept their offensive pressure high the entire match while their defense allowed very few chances for Richmond Academy to break through. 

“We should’ve scored way more, but (Richmond Academy) played their tails off and made us work for everything,” Singleton said. 

Mckenna Walker, Malaya Yamasaki, Jordyn Jones, Lauren Gates, Jacey Stringfield and Kyli Greer all turned in outstanding defensive performances. Due to their play, Eastside goalkeeper Anna Shelton rarely touched the ball in the first half.

The second half was much like the first until, with about 15 minutes left, the Lady Musketeers’ offense turned up the pressure. But Eastside’s defense remained stalwart, turning Richmond’s attacks away and leaving the match scoreless when regulation came to an end. 

That’s when Everett worked her magic.

It took only 22 seconds of the 15-minute overtime for Eastside to net the winning goal. Love sent a beautiful long-flighted ball to Everett who outraced a defender and played the ball around Leibach to score the game-winner. 

“She ended up ‘okie dokie’ around the keeper and tapping the ball in,” Singleton said. “It was something else.” 

Everett said the score was just a matter of her acting on instincts and an opportunity created by Eastside’s defense. 

“As a team, we were pressuring hard, forcing them into mistakes in the first couple seconds (of overtime),” Everett said. “We forced them to play a ball back, and I just sprinted as hard as I could and slotted it past the keeper.” 

Everett and company exploded into a frenzy of celebration. But the sophomore knew they had to quickly come back down to earth to ensure the game’s only goal wouldn’t be a wasted effort. 

“My reaction was pure joy and excitement,” she said. “In that moment, as a team we were all excited. However, we still needed to close the game out and stay focused on sealing our victory.” 

After the Eastside goal, Shelton made two outstanding saves within 30 seconds of each other to preserve the clean sheet. It was the tenth shutout of the 2019 campaign for the Lady Eagles, tying them with the 2012 Sweet 16 squad for the program record.

It’s rarified air for an Eastside team that’s never been past the second round before. The Lady Eagles will host Blessed Trinity at Sharp Stadium on Tuesday at a time Singleton said would be announced later this week. 

The fifth-ranked Lady Titans (13-3-1) punched their ticket to the next round by knocking of LaGrange 6-1 also on Wednesday night. Everett said she knows the challenge will be pretty stiff, but she also believes the team’s riding a high crest of momentum that no one wants to see subside — especially for the sake of Eastside’s seniors. 

“It’s an amazing feeling for us as a team to do something that has ever been done before at Eastside,” she said. “I’m excited for me, the team and especially our seniors.”