Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

LEESBURG -- Without question, Lee County and Thomas County Central were the two best soccer teams in the region this season.

Tuesday's Region 1-AAAA title between the two rivals, their third showdown this season, provided all the proof. TCC's Lady Yellow Jackets, which had lost twice to the Lady Trojans in the regular season, pulled out a 6-5 win with penalty kicks after regulation and overtime to win their second straight region crown against Lee County.

There was no solace in taking two-of-three during the season from TCC for Lee County (15-2-1), nor was their any postgame message from head coach Dave Baltenberger.

"No, they don't want to hear it," said Baltenberger, whose team didn't lose a region game during the regular season. "We didn't quit. We came back (from down 3-2). Sometimes it doesn't go your way."

TCC, a No. 2 seed from Region 1A-AAAA, was able to outscore top seed Lee County, 3-2, in penalty kicks after ending regulation tied, 3-3.

The Lady Yellow Jackets will now swap seeds with Lee when the state playoffs begin next Wednesday, but both will still host first round games.

"We'll be a two instead of a one (seed)," Baltenberger said. "We can still do some damage there."

The rivalry between these two was evident from the first kick. Bodies flew around the field and slammed into each other repeatedly, eventually leading to two yellow cards on TCC players as the tension grew.

"It's a very good rivalry," TCC coach Nick Haskin said. "It's good for soccer and it's good for the girls. It would be great to play (Lee County) week-in and week-out. They'd probably kill each other. Just to get out of the game with nobody injured, we're both very happy with that."

Trailing, 3-2, at the break, Lee County's Haley Cimino scored to tie things up at 3-3 with 36:03 to play. The score would stay that way for the remainder of regulation and two five-minute extra periods.

In PKs, TCC went ahead 5-3 with scores from Meka Revels and Jordan Smith after Lee missed its first free kick. The Lady Trojans rallied again, though, with goals from freshmen Carsen Taylor and Nicole Polk and a stop by goalie Ashley Law to tie it up at 5-5.

With one kick left for both teams, TCC's Alyssa Denton made hers and Lady Yellow Jacket goalie Raven Jones came up with one final save to clinch the region championship.

If a soccer game could resemble a heavyweight title bout without the punches, this one did. Lady Trojans senior Kelly Polk, Lee County's most physical enforcer at midfield, was worn out after more than 90 minutes of beating and banging for the top seed in the state playoffs. The loss was an obvious disappointment, but Polk said there could be a positive in it.

"I think it may make us work harder," she said. "I think it really will."

The Lady Trojans' only lead came at the 28-minute mark in the first when Lindsey Crawford's corner kick deflected off a TCC defender into the net for a 2-1 Lee lead. TCC's Ivey Singletary and Lee's Cimino traded goals in the first 10 minutes.

Lee County senior Rachel Hatch, the Lady Trojans' leading scorer and reigning Herald Player of the Year, was held without a goal after she had scored seven times in the previous two region playoff games.

Singletary and Revels each had two goals for TCC, while Mikalah Guyton added a header with five minutes left in the first half to put the Lady Yellow Jackets up 3-2 before Lee's Cimino scored her second goal of the game to tie the score.