Although it didn't officially sink in until the scoreboard's timer read all zeros, Baylor sophomore goalkeeper Zach Ubamadu had already started celebrating his team's 2-0 victory over McCallie. With the ball on the other end of the field, he had started circling around the keeper box, clapping his hands and yelling "Let's Go!"
On an evening where the Red Raiders' offense wasn't the cleanest and their goals not the prettiest, Ubamadu and the defense led the way.
It had been a span of 24 matches — since March 11, 2019 — since the top-ranked Blue Tornado had been shut out of a match, with McCallie winning that season's Division II-AA state championship before last season was canceled due to COVID-19. That it was Baylor that ended this particular streak was a great moment for the team.
"This win means everything," said Ubamadu, who just returned Friday from a bone bruise in his right leg that had him out for a week and was noticeably limping at times. "This was a great team win. I mean, do you see all the fans that came out? It just feels amazing. This is what Baylor is about."
Ubamadu didn't return to practice until Thursday, which consisted of a quick workout with Baylor assistant (and current Chattanooga Red Wolves goalkeeper) Tim Trilk.
"For him to step in this game and play like that, it's unbelievable," head coach Curtis Blair said. "And I think not just Zach gets a lot of credit, but the four people that are in front of him did an outstanding job. He just had to save the things that he was capable of saving. I don't think he really ever had to come up big, a lot of things were hit to him, and they (McCallie) did get some chances. But for the most part, our back four just kept things in front of us. But I give a lot of credit to those guys and (defensive midfielder) Aiden Yelton for limiting their chances."
That group held down a potent McCallie (5-1-2, 0-1) attack led by North Carolina signee Gui Vivaldini. But Baylor (7-4-2, 1-0) also has a future Tar Heel in junior David Danquah, who broke free with a number of moves late in the first half and created the team's first goal with a shot that was deflected before being punched in by Phelipe Spielman. Riley Shankle added the team's second goal after a miscommunication on a Nathan Lemus free kick led to the ball ricocheting into the Baylor net.
"This is never our final goal," Ubamadu said. "Our coaches told us state is our final goal every year. This is a great team win, but this just slingshots us into the next game, the next division game and then into the state tournament."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.