MACON, Ga. — Time and time again, the Social Circle Lady Redskins rose to the occasion when they needed to en route to a 6-4 overtime victory over Commerce to capture the 2022 GHSA Class A-Public State Championship.
Tuesday’s match at Five Star Stadium in Macon was unlike any other Social Circle head coach Heather Richardson had witnessed before.
“As I was watching the game and watching us come back and score goals, I kept thinking ‘Wow, this team is super special,’” Richardson said. “They fought hard the entire game, even when they were down.”
There were many ups and downs throughout the 100 minutes of action.
Every moment, though, led to the biggest one in the first half of overtime.
After not leading at all in the match, Kaylee Connell was fouled in the penalty box, giving Social Circle a penalty kick. With six minutes left in the first half of overtime, Tess Preston made the most of the opportunity, netting the penalty kick and giving the Lady Redskins their definitive lead of the night.
Preston, one of this year’s seniors, was in awe of the moment.
“I was so nervous,” Preston said. “Everybody behind me was like ‘you got this,’ but I was like ‘I have to get it or it’s over.’ So, I put it in.”
Social Circle’s cherry on top came later from Peyton Brooks who netted her fourth goal of the match with a minute remaining in the second half of overtime. Brooks’ goal officially sealed the deal for the Lady Redskins.
But Brooks did more than that for her team on the biggest stage. Whenever the Lady Redskins needed a goal, Brooks delivered.
Less than two minutes into the match, Commerce’s Chloe Diaz gave the Lady Tigers a 1-0 advantage. Commerce’s lead stood for nearly 15 minutes before Brooks fired a shot and placed the ball in the top left of the goal, tying the score 1-1.
Then, Ivy Tolbert of Commerce scored back-to-back goals to stretch the Lady Tigers’ lead 3-1 with 9:04 remaining in the first half.
As the closing minutes ticked away before halftime, it seemed like the two-goal lead would remain intact. But Brooks had other plans.
With 2:46 left in the opening half, Brooks found the back of the net to draw Social Circle to within one goal.
At halftime, Commerce held onto a 3-2 lead, though Olivia Cross got off a shot attempt that nearly missed for Social Circle in the closing seconds.
In the first 23 minutes of the second half, emotions ran high as two yellow cards were issued to a player of each team. Neither team seemed able to break through for another goal.
That was until Alana Ferguson penetrated Commerce’s defense and drew Kendall Peters out of the goalie box. Ferguson proceeded to shoot the ball over Peters’ head and the ball rolled into the net, tying the score at three goals apiece.
Sixteen minutes later, another Diaz goal gave the lead back to Commerce. Once again, though, Brooks had an answer.
With 6:59 remaining in regulation, Brooks recorded a hat trick that tied the score back up 4-4, forcing overtime.
Scoring four goals in Tuesday’s state title match wouldn’t have been possible without the help from teammates, according to Brooks.
“We all worked hard together as a team,” Brooks said. “I think we all played good and that we all had a really good game.”
Another player whose performance factored heavily in the final outcome was goalkeeper Addie Stracner. For a significant portion in the first half, Commerce’s offense seemed to camp out in front of Social Circle’s goal.
In that time, the Lady Tigers put up 13 shots and had eight corner kicks. However, Stracner collected 10 saves to keep the score within reach for Social Circle.
When the game was over, Stracner was ‘still shaking’ in celebration of what she and her teammates had accomplished.
“I’ve never been shaking this much in my entire life,” Stracner said.
In addition to goals scored, Preston and Ferguson as well as Taylor Wright each recorded an assist. On defense, Rory Stowe, Morgan Chambers and Faith Young kept Commerce’s offense at bay down the stretch of regulation and scoreless in both overtime halves.
Every player’s contributions helped cap a 2022 campaign in which the Lady Redskins went 24-1, 13-1 in Region 8A-Public and earned the Region 8A-Public championship, too. Now, they’ll add a state title to this season’s resume.
Even so, once the match went final on Tuesday, the moment was unreal to some players.
“It literally feels like a dream,” Preston said. “I’ve always wanted my high school career to end this way, but I never knew if it would. I’m so glad it did.”