Hardin Valley’s 3-2 win at Powell on Tuesday in the Region 2-AAA soccer semifinals came with some unexpected late drama.
Despite dominating play for most of the second half, the Lady Hawks had to hang on during the frenetic final five minutes against the Lady Panthers to secure a spot in Thursday’s region championship game at Maryville.
Powell senior standout Bailey Taylor produced a stunning long-range goal in the 75th minute to pull the Lady Panthers within a goal.
The Lady Hawks (12-6-3) then survived an all-out assault by Powell (12-7) in the waning moments to advance to Thursday’s Region 2-AAA title game.
Maryville (17-1-3) dominated Oak Ridge, 7-1, in its Tuesday semifinal game.
Region finalists automatically advance to Saturday’s sectionals.
The Maryville-Hardin Valley winner will host the Region 1 runner-up in Saturday’s sectional. The loser will travel to the Region 1 winner.
Sectional winners advance to next week’s state tournament in Murfreesboro.
Hardin Valley will be shooting for its first win over Maryville in three tries this season in Thursday’s finals.
The teams tied 1-1 during the regular season and the Lady Rebels edged the Lady Hawks in the District 4-AAA championship game, 2-0.
“We’ve got a little something to prove this time around,” said Hardin Valley coach Jessie Stephens.
“Can we get even with them at 1-1-1 in the series? It’s going to be a challenge at Maryville Thursday.”
Hardin Valley opened the scoring Tuesday on a 25-yard goal by Mackenzie Smith above the box in the 22nd minute.
Taylor, who has committed to Tennessee Tech, knotted the score four minutes later when she beat Lady Hawks goalie Taylor Mauck in close.
With nine minutes to go in the half, Kaiya Cruze edged Hardin Valley back in front when she scored off a deflection.
The Lady Hawks looked like they sealed the victory in the 63rd minute when Karly Livingston picked off a loose ball in front of the Powell goal and buried it in the net for a 3-1 lead.
But then, unexpectedly, Taylor’s goal ignited the Lady Panthers.
Powell came close to tying the game with less than three minutes to play, but Mauck made a nice save on a shot at the crossbar for the Lady Hawks.
“She (Taylor) is a fantastic player,” said Stephens.
“That was just a fantastic shot. They definitely never gave up.”
Powell coach Mark Smith said his team just waited a little too long in its comeback bid.
“I was proud of their effort and the way they kept pushing through,” said Smith.
“We put a lot of pressure on them, but hats off to Hardin Valley.”
Smith said it was tough to see Taylor play her final game in a Powell uniform.
“We’ve relied on her for four years. Everybody keys on her. For Bailey to come up with a couple of goals — with as much attention as they to her — speaks of her talent.”
Hardin Valley had 19 shots on goal to Powell’s eight.
Stephens admitted the Lady Hawks left several goals on the field.
“That’s something we’ve taken note of,” she said. “At this point in the season we’ve got to put some of those away.”
Still, Hardin Valley did just enough to keep its season alive.
“I was proud of my girls,” said Stephens.
“We gave up a goal in the first half and then were able to fight back, get one and then get another. We live to see another day.”