HISTORY! RCB Lady Eagles Overcome Deficit to Win School's 1st State Soccer Championship

By Local News | November 04, 2017

Report from The Charleston Gazette-Mail:

BECKLEY – Charleston Catholic was 3:01 of game time away from a state championship. Just 5:49 later Robert C. Byrd was celebrating.

Soccer can be a cruel game and the Irish was reminded of just that on Saturday.

A goal with 3:01 left in regulation by Madison Smith and another off the foot of Casey Underwood with 7:12 left in the first overtime erased a late 2-1 Irish lead and gave the Eagles a 3-2 victory and the school’s first girls soccer Class AA-A state championship at Paul Cline Memorial Sports Complex in Beckley.

It was quick and, in Catholic’s case, painful. But Byrd, who’d watched a 1-0 lead turn into a 2-1 deficit earlier in the second half, came up with two huge plays when it absolutely had to have them.

“I would describe it as a dog fight,” Byrd coach Tina Smith said. “Expected a tough game, they’re a great team and have a bunch of championships to support that, but I knew we could give them a game. I kept telling the girls to just keep their head, keep working hard and take our opportunities when they game.”

The first half was quiet enough on Saturday with only three shots on goal total. Byrd had a few open looks but all came up empty as the teams went into the break scoreless.

The Eagles (17-4-4) got on the board first just 2:44 into the second half on a shot from Ashton McKane.

Catholic had been fairly stagnant offensively until that point, but Byrd’s tally seemed to spark the Irish and it paid off with 26:22 remaining in the half as Mills Mullen buried a goal off a deflection from Byrd goalie Madisen Miles. Jordan Keener set up the play with a corner kick after Miles made a great save on a rocket off the foot of Mullen.

Catholic kept the pressure up with Keener getting the next score, booting a ball in off an assist from Mullen to give the Irish (18-4-2) a 2-1 lead and seemingly control of the game with 18:29 remaining in regulation.

“We had to move some people around,” Catholic coach Amy Mullen said. “Our center back [Audrey Miller] was injured and when she came back in she said, ‘I’m scared to play in the back, I can’t keep up.’ We tried to put her in the front to generate some offense and the first few minutes it worked.

“I kept trying to get everybody to come back and we wouldn’t man mark. We just kind of watched the ball.”

That score would hold as the minutes wound down and Catholic seemed primed to salt the game away.

But Byrd organized one last attack with just over three minutes to go that resulted in a corner kick.

The ensuing ball landed in the box, bounced around a bit until eventually it found the foot of Smith who sneaked a shot past Catholic goalie Katie Nester.

“The corner kick, it just got loose,” Catholic defender Sara Carr said. “It was just bouncing around. We needed to put more confidence behind the ball I’d say.”

All of that set up Underwood, who got loose down the left side line, drawing Nester to the left corner of the goal, just far enough for Underwood’s shot to find the back corner and deliver Byrd its first state championship in any sport other than cheerleading.

“I took one touch and I could see Sara Carr in the middle, so I didn’t think I could take another touch,” Underwood said. “But I saw the goalie shift toward my left side which left the entire back side open and I just slipped back with my right foot.”

It was a bit of sweet revenge for the Eagles, who lost on a golden goal to Charleston Catholic two years ago as the Irish went on to win a second straight state tournament.

Mills Mullen scored four of Catholic’s five goals in the state tournament and will be back next season as part of a junior class with seven players. The Irish also boasted 10 freshmen on its roster.

But its two seniors, Keener and Carr, have been invaluable parts of two state-title-winning teams and two state runners-up over the past four seasons and both players and Amy Mullen took a moment to reflect after the dust had settled.

“It sucks, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way,” Keener said.

“We’re quite the family with quite the mom,” Carr added, nodding to Mullen.

“It is going to be very sad to lose these two,” Mullen said. “They’ve been the solid rock for us the last four years. It’s going to leave a big hole.”

Nester made three saves for Catholic with Miles stopping five shots for Byrd.

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