GREENVILLE — In a very close match-up, JL Mann scored with 2:38 left in the game to get the 2-1 win over the Fort Mill Lady Jackets in the second round of the 4A state soccer playoffs.
The 14th ranked Fort Mill had to travel to third-ranked JL Mann to take on a one-loss squad in the Lady Patriots. JL Mann, after dropping its season opener to Hilton Head, had rattled off 21 straight wins to get to the second round of the playoffs.
JL Mann controlled the ball to start the second half early on with the game tied at 1-1. However, neither team seemed to be able to set the tempo like the Patriots did in the first half. JL Mann got a couple early shot attempts and corner kicks, but Yellow Jackets freshman keeper Samantha Whitley was able to keep the Lady Patriots out of the net.
Fort Mill was able to put more pressure on the JL Mann defense in the second half, but that seemed to change in the last 10 minutes of the match as the Lady Patriots became the aggressors, almost shifting into another gear and started pulling away.
JL Mann was able to get breakaway opportunities and that aggression paid when, with less than three minutes to go, the Lady Patriots scored the game-winner on sophomore Sarah Dixon’s breakaway that gave them a 2-1 lead.
“Mentally we lost our shape,” said Fort Mill head coach Ryan Morris. “Fatigue got the best of us. The fight, the effort they gave; I’m very proud of them.”
Morris had high praise for Whitley, who had 11 saves in the game.
“My keeper kept us in the game,” he said.
After a short feeling out period from each team in the first half, when neither team kept the ball much, the Lady Patriots started to gain the advantage by gradually controlling possession.
JL Mann got its first shot on goal about eight minutes into the game, but Whitley was able to scoop up the shot.
Fort Mill didn’t have many chances on offense due to a lack of ball possession, getting just one shot on goal in the first 10 minutes of the game.
When the Jackets did have the ball, the Lady Patriots’ defense was right on top of them swarming their way into intercepting passes. The Lady Patriots had back-to-back chances to score with about 20 minutes left in the first half, but Whitley made a diving stop on one of the shots and then the other shot when to the left side of the net missing the goal completely.
Defensively, Fort Mill did a good job filling the box and keeping JL Mann from getting any breakaway advantages or easy looks at the goal.
JL Mann had another shot on goal with about nine minutes left in the first half on a free kick, but Whitley was on top of her game and came up with her fourth save of the first half.
Two minutes later, the Lady Patriots would finally get on the board after an accidental hand ball during a cross shot by JL Mann set up a penalty kick by junior Jeni Erickson.
The Jackets got a lucky break right before the half to tie the game as junior Bailey Rich collided with Lady Patriots keeper Nicole Dagher, but not before getting the shot off with just enough force to roll into the goal for Fort Mill’s only score.
JL Mann 2, Fort Mill 1
Fort Mill 10 – 1
JL Mann 11 – 2
JLM – Jeni Erickson, 33:14
FM – Bailey Rich, 39:00
JLM – Sarah Dixon, 77:22
Shots on goal: Fort Mill 3, JL Mann 13.
Saves: Samantha Whitley (FM) 11, Nicole Dagher (JLM) 2.
Corner kicks: Fort Mill 1, JL Mann 6.
Records: Fort Mill 18-4-1, JL Mann 22-1-0.