As Ameris Taylor set up the ball, Ryan Joiner turned his back on the field and crouched down.
Ocean Springs’ girls and Oak Grove battled for 65 minutes Saturday in the physical Class 6A second round matchup. Both teams had traded possession up until that point without any grade-A scoring chances.
That changed when Ocean Springs’ Danielle Pasquini and Oak Grove’s keeper collided charging head on for a 50-50 ball, with the Lady Greyhound earning a penalty kick.
After asking Joiner to take the kick, Taylor calmly set up the ball, took a few strides back and booted it to the left side, past the diving keeper for what ended up being the decisive goal in the 1-0 outcome.
“I had all the faith in Ameris,” Joiner said. “As a sophomore she stepped up and asked if she could take it and I said absolutely.”
Taylor felt the keeper was baiting her on the kick, but she didn’t bite, burying the kick halfway up the goal on the left side.
“I was super nervous but I just had to put that away,” Taylor said. “... The feeling, it was just amazing.”
Ocean Springs (15-6-4) won a season-opening classic game against Oak Grove (13-3), but the Lady Warriors claimed their regular season meeting 5-2. Without several key players for this matchup, many felt Ocean Springs would be dispatched. Instead, the Lady Greyhounds shut out Oak Grove for the first time this season. Specifically, Ocean Springs did a good job of limiting the chances of Lonnie Mulligan, Oak Grove’s outstanding goal scorer.
“It was a team effort. Everybody played their part,” Joiner said. “I’m very impressed with how we responded from the 5-2 defeat against them.”
Perhaps Oak Grove’s best chance came with 10 minutes remaining. The Lady Warriors drove a corner kick into the box. Ocean Springs keeper Autumn Fike, who made a diving stop in the 59th minute on Mulligan, got an initial touch on the ball before Kaylee Foster headed the ball off the line and out of the crowd.
“Kaylee Foster’s sole job is to defend the ball. She’s the best header on the team,” Joiner said. “She dropped in, replaced the keeper and I think all the mornings where we worked on set pieces at 6 and 7 a.m. paid off because they had three great deliveries they had at the end of the game.”
Ocean Springs will host Brandon in the Class 6A South State Game at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Ocean Springs 3, Brandon 2 (OT): The throw, the flick and the header were all perfect. After blowing a two-goal lead, the Greyhounds (19-3-1) had to rally in the 25th minute of overtime Saturday to advance to the Class 6A South State Championship.
In the final minutes of the third overtime frame, Garret Dean launched a long throw into the box. Kealan Baggett flicked the ball backwards with his head toward the goal mouth and K.J. Mack crashed the net, heading it past Brandon’s keeper.
“You draw it up anyway you can get it in the back of the net,” said OSHS coach Jeff French, who was actually knocked to the ground by one of his players during the golden goal madness. “I knew it was coming.”
The goal in the 25th minute of overtime launched the Greyhounds onto the field at Hugh Pepper Field. The players rushed to pick up Mack, who is only a freshman, and cart him around the field.
The Greyhounds came out early in the game and took the play to Brandon. Myles Duggan gave the Greyhounds an early 1-0 lead, scoring on a back post header.
Ocean Springs extended its lead to 2-0 three minutes into the second half. Mike Jimenez delivered a low skipping corner kick through a crowd in the box and Nick Good pounded the ball into the net.
“I don’t know if Jimenez miss-hit it or did it on purpose, but he smashed it across, Nick swung and it went off the post and into the net,” French said.
Brandon’s Scott Goodman got the Bulldogs on the scoreboard in the 72nd minute, scoring off of a long throw-in into the box. Ruslan Stubbs tied the game three minutes later, scoring off of a free kick. One of the Bulldog players, however, sprinted over to the crowd to celebrate the game-tying goal – with a player who had already been ejected from the bench – and was awarded a red card, putting the Bulldogs a man down for the overtime frames.
“They say the most dangerous lead in a soccer game is 2-0 because you start thinking you have it and settling in,” French said. “Next thing you know it’s 2-1.”
BHS keeper Zach Beasley deserves credit for almost getting the Bulldogs to the second golden goal period. Beasley point-blank made save after save, especially in overtime. No save was larger than a sprawling deflection on a diving header from Jimenez.
“If they have any other keeper in the state, we’re probably up more than 2-0 in the first place,” French said.
The Greyhounds will now host the winner of George County and Oak Grove in the Class 6A South State Championship. A win Tuesday would send the Greyhounds to their third consecutive state championship game.