By CHARLIE WALLACE
Special To The Item
Richland Northeast High School freshman midfielder Sarah Simpson scored the game-winning goal in the second half of the second overtime Monday to lift the Lady Cavaliers to a 2-1 victory over Sumter in a hard-fought 4A girls soccer state playoff first-round game at the SHS field.
Simpson ended the game as she made a 50-yard run then poked the ball past Sumter goalkeeper Kayla Rider to end a marathon playoff game.
“I’ve never had a shot quite like this,” Simpson said.
“They got one before we did,” said Sumter head coach Jimmy Watson, whose team finishes the year with a 12-7 record, of the winning goal. “I thought we played very well; I was very proud of them.”
Sumter, the Region VI regular-season champion, scored the first goal of the game as sophomore midfielder Ashley Cotton lofted a 30-yard shot over the head of Northeast keeper Lindsay Winburn in the first half. RNE, the No.4 seed out of Region V, then tied the game with eight minutes left in the half when Melissa Simpson scored following a missed Sarah Simpson shot.
The Lady Cavaliers controlled most of the first half, as they outshot the Lady Gamecocks 15-10 but only 28-26 for the entire game.
“We came out and got a win, that’s all we were looking for,” RNE head coach Jackie Welch said. “We weren’t the team that we normally are.”
Simpson’s sudden-death game-winning goal put a black mark on Rider’s fantastic game as she had 20 saves in the losing effort.
Besides being a tightly-contested match throughout, the game was also very physical with a multitude of fouls being called and many players taking falls.
“We wanted to come out and play hard and not be intimidated,” Watson said. “Being a playoff game, I think they (the players) were a little more emotional then normal.”
Despite the season-ending loss, Watson is optimistic about the future.
“The bulk of the team is coming back. If we can continue to slowly move forward, we hope for better things next year.”
Richland Northeast, which improved 6-12 on the season, will play at either Stratford or West Ashley on Wednesday.