Westover’s Katie Brown, center, is mobbed by teammates Abi Estrada (11) and Carley Turner after Brown scored the game-winning goal in the second overtime of Tuesday evening’s GHSA Class AAAA state playoff opener against Spalding. (email@example.com)
ALBANY — A game defined by heart ultimately became one decided by a head.
It was the combination of the two that gave the Westover girls soccer team its first state playoff victory in seven years and brought head coach Terri Satterfield to tears.
“All I can do is cry,” Satterfield said. “I am just so happy. We knew they could do it. All they had to do was believe in themselves.”
After battling state-ranked No. 10 Spalding to a 1-1 tie in regulation of Tuesday’s first round of the Class AAAA state playoffs, Westover’s Katie Brown scored on a header with 1:42 remaining in the second overtime to give the Lady Patriots a 2-1 win and send them to the second round for the second time in school history.
“The past two games they played with their heart, and that’s the biggest gift they have given me as a senior,” said Westover senior Abi Estrada, who booted the corner kick that set up Brown’s game-winner.
Estrada was the first to wrap Brown in hugs and tears after the game-winning goal.
“She was already crying,” Brown said of Estrada, one of six seniors on Westover’s roster. “It was just awesome, especially since it was one of my last games I will ever play.”
Westover goalkeeper Hope Johnson made one incredible save after another both in regulation and the two overtime periods to keep the score knotted up, but it was 100 yards away from Johnson in Spalding’s goal where history was made.
Less than two minutes away from penalty kicks, Estrada curled the ball into the goal with one of Westover’s few corner kicks, nearly winning the game herself. The shot was knocked out of the goal by Spalding’s keeper and floated right to Brown.
“All I was thinking was, ‘This has to go in,’ ” Brown said. “I knew it was my chance. It had to go in. We had to win.”
It was a no-doubter as soon as it left the senior's head.
"That is typical Katie," Satterfield said. "When we are down, Katie will come up and score the point for us. She is phenomenal."
The Region 1-AAAA No. 2 seed Lady Patriots (16-3) will now play in the second round on May 7 against either Region 2 No. 1 seed Veterans or Region 3 No. 4 seed South Effingham.
The Lady Patriots got on the board first just under three minutes into the game when Nellie Young's shot hit Spalding's keeper in the chest and then bounced into the back of the net.
Spalding scored an equalizer 15 minutes later, and then Westover's defense — led by senior Tan Young — and Johnson stood strong for the next 70 minutes.
Spalding entered the playoffs as the No. 3 seed from Region 4 and brought plenty of hype that comes along with being an Atlanta-area school.
"We didn't know what to expect because they were an Atlanta team, and all of the Atlanta teams are really good," Young said. "For us to win this and make the second round is amazing. We knew they were a really good team, but we really pulled together."
It was a special moment for a program that had been looking for a second playoff victory for nearly a decade.
"This means we are coming up in the world," Satterfield said. "We are a very competitive team. We can play these teams from Atlanta."
LOCUST GROVE 5, WORTH COUNTY 0: The Lady Rams lost in their GHSA Class AAAA state opener Tuesday to end their season. No final stats were available.