Sullivan Central’s Rylie Patrick authored a crisp strike into the back of the net with five minutes left before the break, tying the game and providing the impetus for the Lady Cougars’ 3-1 victory over Elizabethton in the District 1-AA semifinals at Citizens Bank Stadium on Tuesday.
Patrick also scored the other two goals, and her hat trick propelled Central into Thursday’s district title game at Greeneville, which defeated Volunteer in Tuesday’s other semifinal.
Central coach Emily Robinette said she wasn’t surprised with the victory, even though her team lost 2-0 to Elizabethton during the regular season.
“I knew they could do it, they just had to believe in themselves,” Robinette said. “We have a very young team. I started two freshmen, three juniors and six sophomores. They got the job done. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
The victory gave Central its first region berth since 2017 and its 10th win of the season. It was a season- ending loss for Elizabethton (11-4).
THE TURNING POINT
Elizabethton seemed to be in control thanks to Maggie Johnson’s goal just nine minutes into the game. But Patrick’s first goal was a dramatic difference.
“Any time you give up a goal in the last five minutes of the half, those goals are always problematic,” said Lady Cyclones coach Bill McClay. “They looked like they were winning, we looked like we had lost, and it was halftime and still 1-1. And to top it off they got one relatively early in the second half.”
Robinette said the pre-halftime goal was important to her team.
“It meant a lot,” she said. “I didn’t want to be down at halftime. I felt we had the momentum going into the last 10 minutes of the first half and we needed to keep it.”
PATRICK’S BIG DAY
After igniting her team’s momentum, Patrick put the Lady Cougars ahead with a goal nine minutes into the second half.
Patrick’s first two goals were similar as she was able to find open space in the middle of the field.
“Sometimes it’s easier to dribble the ball in than shooting out wide, and that’s what helped the whole game today,” she said.
The difference between this game and the regular season meeting, Patrick said, was the Lady Cougars played better this time around.
“We just didn’t play right the first time,” she said. “We came out (Tuesday) and finally had a good game.”
Patrick ended any suspense with three minutes left in the game. The ball was touched by Central three times in the box with the last one being an easy tap in by Patrick.
The Lady Cougars will be underdogs against Greeneville, which beat Central 8-0 back on Oct. 1.
“We’re going to try our best,” said Patrick. “Win or lose, we’re going to keep going. It’s going to be a good season.”