In a game that lasted 110 minutes, it was the last four minutes that really mattered Saturday at the Georgia Independent School Association state title game on St. Simons Island.
Gatewood scored in the fourth overtime to break a 1-1 tie that had existed since the closing minutes of the first half and beat First Presbyterian Christian Academy, 2-1, to claim the state GISA Class AA girls’ soccer title.
The Lady Highlanders wrapped up a spectacular season as the state Class AA runners-up.
The Lady Gators came out with a quick attack, but FPCA responded by driving the ball down the field. Lady Highlander Elise Letnauchyn took a pass from Brooke Standard and fired a shot that brushed the Gatewood keeper’s fingertips and went into the net. FPCA led, 1-0, seven minutes into the game. Gatewood got several breakaway attempts to score but FPCA flew around on defense, and Standard headed away a potential Gatewood goal late in the first half.
In the final three minutes of the first half, Gatewood banged in a shot off the left goal post for a 1-1 tie.
The second half and first three overtimes remained in a deadlock. Highlander keeper Megan Higgason blocked several one-on-one attempts from the Lady Gators.
“Playing in the championship game, we were nervous. It was our first time there. I still think we were the better team, and several coaches have told me that. We just didn’t respond to the pressure of playing well Saturday, but this experience will certainly benefit us in the future,” FPCA coach Tom Sukaratana said.
The coach talked about his attempts to motivate the team.
“Elise scored our one goal today. I gave each player a note before the game, and I wrote on her note that she would score at least one goal today,” Sukaratana said.
FPCA finished with a 15-2 record that included a region championship.
“We only had one senior this year, and we are going to be even stronger next year. We don’t lose any starters for the next two years. I really think we will have a strong team the next five years,” Sukaratana said.
The Lady Highlanders had three All-State players and 10 All-Region players.
Standard, Kelsey Higgason and Hope Armstrong were named to both teams.
Aaliyah Wilson, Megan Gillion, Letnauchyn, Megan Higgason, Elanna Peterson, Ja’Nea White and Julia Malcolm were voted to the All-Region team.