Updated at 8:20 p.m. on Oct. 29, 2021, to correct the name of East Hamilton's goalkeeper. An earlier version identified the wrong player based on official statistics from the TSSAA.
Sara Hill stood her ground as Christ Presbyterian Academy star attacker Caroline Betts broke free for a one-on-one opportunity with less than a minute left to play in a TSSAA Division II-AA state semifinal.
Baylor's freshman goalkeeper made the biggest play of her young career as Hill dove fully outstretched to her left to deny the sizzling shot in the closing moments of the Lady Red Raiders' 2-1 comeback victory Thursday at Chattanooga Christian School.
"To come up big and make that save in such a big moment means everything," Hill said moments after the Lady Red Raiders chanted her name in their postgame celebration. "That was the one save we really needed to close it out. It was a hard shot and a save I will always remember."
Hill also made a diving stop on a CPA breakaway in the 56th minute, holding the Nashville program scoreless in the second half after being called off the bench by Baylor coach Curtis Blair with the team down 1-0 at the break.
Baylor (16-1-2) will shoot for the school's 10th state title in girls' soccer — and first since 2017 — when the Lady Red Raiders take on Harpeth Hall at 6:30 p.m. Friday at CHI Memorial Stadium in East Ridge, the home of USL League One's Chattanooga Red Wolves. Harpeth Hall (12-0-3) beat GPS earlier Thursday at CCS, ending the Bruisers' season and preventing an all-Chattanooga final.
After CPA (9-2-2) scored off Betts' free kick from 25 yards away that bounced off the bottom of the cross bar and in during the sixth minute, Baylor senior midfielder Zoey Mize helped spur the rally. A shot off her right foot glanced off the left post, and several of her passes to teammates inside and around the box came up just short in the first half.
Those shortcomings changed in the 46th minute. Mize curled around a defender and created space off a throw-in ball to fire a left-footed shot into the upper left corner of the net, past the outstretched keeper's hands for the equalizer. She kept a lightning-quick attack rolling as the Lady Red Raiders had 10 shots and eight corner kicks in the final 40 minutes.
"We all felt like we were getting closer and closer with each possession and fed off that energy," said Mize, who has committed to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. "The goals were going to come because we were playing dangerous together and the way we want to. We continued to work the ball out wide and delivered."
Mize was brilliant with her placement on corner kicks. In the 56th minute, her corner from the left sideline found the leaping Melissa Oliveira, whose header went just wide right. In the 62nd, Baylor's Evie Culbreath had a breakaway run on the right side before firing a shot off the crossbar.
The winner came 10 minutes later.
Mize curled a perfect corner kick from the right sideline into the middle of the goal area to the feet of sophomore Jada Cooper. Her first shot bounced off the keeper's hands right back to her, and Cooper cleaned up for the 2-1 lead.
"We had one mission coming here: to get to the finals," Mize said. "That was what kept us going and fueled our comeback today. We all know what our goal is. We are going to go out there in the finals and just play the way we know how to, and hopefully great things happen."
Baylor has plenty of confidence in its star playmaker.
"Zoey always makes it happen," said Hill, the freshman keeper. "She is a superstar and brings so much to the table every game. We all rally around her and want to win a state championship."
Harpeth Hall 3, GPS 2: Sasha Carbone sent a perfectly placed free kick across the field and to the left post, where Kennedy Ball headed the ball in for a 2-2 tie in the 65th minute. However, Harpeth Hall's Quinn Erim scored the go-ahead goal less than a minute later. Ball scored twice for the Bruisers (11-5-1), last year's state runners-up.
Murfreesboro Central 1, East Hamilton 0: In a Class AA semifinal at CCS, Ashleigh Clark scored in the 32nd minute and Murfreesboro Central (17-4) finished with a 10-2 advantage in shots. For East Hamilton (16-5), Maggie Rickerd made 12 saves in the state tournament.
Alcoa 1, Arts & Sciences 0: In a Class A semifinal at Baylor, Wendy Beristain scored in the seventh minute and Alcoa (14-6-1) made it stand. The Lady Patriots were outshot 11-3 as their historic season ended with an 18-4-1 record.