Any grumblings about the 120-yard sprints East Ridge soccer coach Jeremy McIntyre put his team through won't be nearly as audible today. Thursday evening, the Lady Pioneers saw the big payoff.
The team broke open a 1-all regulation match with three goals in an eight-minute span in overtime and claimed the District 6-A/AA championship -- the first in school history -- with a 4-2 victory over Hixson.
The Lady Pioneers (8-6) will face Grace Academy, which fell 2-1 to McMinn Central in the 5-A/AA final, in a region semifinal match Tuesday. The Lady Wildcats will travel to McMinn Central.
Abby Sweatman scored twice and the Pioneers did a solid job defending district most valuable player Samantha Green, who still had two goals despite being shadowed by Makayla Moschkau all match long.
"This is just an amazing feeling," said senior captain Kelby Fryar, who scored East Ridge's final goal. "We set a goal at the beginning of the season, and now we're feeling the accomplishment."
East Ridge took the lead in the 30th minute on Sweatman's penalty kick, set up by a foul by Bailey Payne on Juana Luarca in the box. A handball with about two minutes left in regulation gave Hixson a penalty kick, and Green netted it to put the match into overtime.
Serena Smith had two assists, the second going to Luarca in the 93rd minute.
Hixson (11-5-2) had an early goal by Savannah Keef waved off due to an offside call, and both she and Green had shots glance off the side post.
"Both teams played their hearts out," Hixson coach Jeff Dean said. "We just couldn't finish tonight. We played hard; they outhustled us, but I don't have anything to complain about."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.