Epiphany ends Lady Crusader state run in OT
For the second straight soccer season, Epiphany ended Grace Christian’s season with a 2-1 overtime win in the NCISAA 1A State Tournament, as the host Lady Falcons edged the Lady Crusaders in a quarterfinal match Tuesday afternoon.
Epiphany (9-5), the No. 3 seed in the tournament, scored the tying goal in the 70th minute, then the go-ahead goal with three minutes left in the 20-minute overtime.
“It’s very disappointing and hard for our team to accept,” said Grace Christian head coach Chris Pratt. “We have worked so hard this season and improved so much. To have it end with such a hard-fought match is tough.”
Grace Christian (13-9-2), the No. 6 seed, started strong, outshooting the home side while controlling most of the 50-50 balls and possession, Pratt said.
Freshman Torie Boyte gave the Lady Crusaders the lead in the 29th minute. Fellow freshman Charity Taylor beat two defenders before rocketing a shot from 16 yards out into the lower right corner of the goal. Keeper Dara McClaughlin made a diving save. Boyte followed the rebound and stuck the ball in the back of the net.
McClaughlin, a senior, is a College of Charleston signee. She made a number of key saves to keep Grace’s lead at 1-0, then late in regulation and overtime.
“Dara is an amazing keeper,” Pratt said. “One of the best I have ever seen in high school...We did everything we could to score but she was the difference maker today.”
Epiphany controlled the second half and created several dangerous free kicks, but Grace senior goalkeeper Sarah Beard kept the Lady Crusaders in front with some phenomenal saves.
Epiphany outshot Grace 12-4 in the second half but the score remained 1-0, until the 70th minute. Avery Davis, Epiphany’s leading scorer, sprinted onto a crossed ball and scored.
“Davis is a great player,” said Pratt. “As an eighth grader, she has great size and skill for the game. We decided to man mark her and Kaycee (Murr) did an exceptional job. She just made a great play.”
The Lady Crusaders created scoring chances in the first 10 minutes of overtime. Boyte had two shots only to be met by diving saves by McClaughlin.
The second overtime was tough for the Lady Crusaders. Sophomore Sierra Prater went down with a severe ankle injury and that seemed to deflate the Lady Crusaders. With three minutes remaining, Epiphany scored off a cross and tap in after a Crusader miscue.
“We started playing too defensively and it took our rhythm away. When we applied more pressure to them, we played a lot better,” Pratt said.
The game was not decided until the final seconds. Boyte took the ball to the corner and crossed it to an open Katie Cook who was five yards in front of the goal. Cook one-timed the ball into what looked to be an open goal but McClaughlin made a spectacular diving stop.
The Lady Crusaders had their most successful season in program history. Grace Christian set new records for wins (13), goals, assists and shutouts in a season. The trip to the state quarterfinals is a Lady Crusader first. Beard and Murr are Grace’s only seniors.
“We are definitely going to miss Kaycee and Sarah. They have meant so much and are key contributors to the success of our program. Kaycee took on the opponents best player every game and Sarah is the leader of every goalkeeping category in Lady Crusader soccer,” Pratt said. “I’m proud of our accomplishments this year and look forward to the future of GCS soccer.”