ELIZABETHTON — After a career total of 101 goals, none was sweeter for Savannah Wexler than this one.
With just 62 seconds left in regulation, the University High senior delivered a 20-yard sizzler just under the crossbar to give the Lady Junior Bucs a 1-0 victory over Elizabethton in the District 1-A/AA soccer semifinals at Rider Field on Tuesday night.
It was a season-ender for the Lady Cyclones (8-10) while UH (7-4) advanced to Thursday's championship game against Sullivan South at 4:30 p.m. in Kingsport.
“This was the best goal I've scored,” said Wexler. “It was the most meaningful.”
In a contest that seemed destined for overtime, Wexler caught a nice pass from Maya Houston in the middle of the field. Immediately it was clear the Lady Cyclones were in trouble. Wexler struck the ball solidly and kept it high enough to prevent a play from Elizabethton's goalkeeper.
“Because I've played soccer so long, I can tell when the ball is going in,” said Wexler. “On that shot, the minute I struck it I knew it was going in the goal.
“God gave me the ability to score. I was happy to put it in.”
After a scoreless first half where Elizabethton couldn't finish a couple of really nice chances, the Lady Junior Bucs controlled possession most of the second half. But UH couldn't get ball into the net.
University High head coach Victor Chirica said his team won because of effort.
“I think we really tried hard to win this game,” said Chirica. “We fought the whole game, beginning to end. We knew if we lost, the season was over for us. The girls gave 100 percent.”
UH won many of the 50-50 balls, and that was one of the differences, said Cyclones' head coach Bill McClay.
“They were quicker to most of the 50-50 balls,” said McClay. “Hats off to them. They physically won the match. We played Tennessee High a couple of days ago, and we won most of the 50-50 balls. It's hard to understand why we didn't tonight. We just didn't have that extra gear.”
McClay said the game's lone goal was just one of those things.
“It's the way the ball bounces,” he said. “But we didn't do a great job of thinking, 'Hey, I've got to clear the ball now.' ”
Wexler said she believes her team still has some postseason noise to make.
“If we play like we did tonight, I think we have a chance to go a long way,” said Wexler. “We came close the last time against Sullivan South, but lost in the last two minutes.”