For the first time this season, Thomas Jefferson girls soccer played with its back against the wall.
And, for the first time this season, Raiders coach Josh Hauck got to see how his group would respond in unfamiliar territory.
With Jefferson trailing the Auburn Riverside Ravens 3-2 late in the second half, the Raiders turned to a familiar face. The one who craves the toughest of challenges, sophomore captain Hailey Still. With less than 15 minutes to play, Still received a perfect corner kick, got her head on it, and netted the ball past Ravens goalkeeper Bella Reckling for the 3-3 draw Tuesday at Thomas Jefferson High School.
Though the game ended in a draw, Still’s late-match heroics prevented the Raiders from suffering their first loss of the season.
“It seemed like we just weren’t there in the first half,” Hauck said. “We let them take the game to us, and we only managed four or five shots. Possession was a struggle, but it was cool to see the girls come around in the second half and really play for each other.”
Auburn Riverside (3-1-1) was faster and far more aggressive than Jefferson (2-0-1) through the opening minutes, and the Ravens took advantage of turnovers and executed flawless counter attacks to take the early 1-0 lead.
But as the Raiders started to secure possession in their third of the pitch, they seemingly relaxed and grew more and more confident. Minutes after falling behind, it was Still who found herself with the ball in spacing, and Still put a laser strike past Reckling for the equalizer.
Jefferson was back on its heels though as Auburn Riverside seized the 2-1 lead four minutes later, and took that lead into the second half.
The Raiders got a bright glimpse of the future five minutes into the second half with freshman Katelyn Sok. Sok found Still wide open just outside the Ravens’ box. Sok sent a perfect through ball to Still, who took one touch and put the 2-2 equalizer past Recklingfor her second goal of the afternoon.
“We were quiet and not really communicating what we wanted to do,” Hauck said. “I think once we tied it up [at 2-2], we started to pick up the talking, and it benefited us as the game went along.”
But as soon as Jefferson began to regain the confidence after its equalizer, the Ravens answered with a goal for the 3-2 lead.
So, the Raiders turned to No. 13, and Still answered the call late in the second half with her third goal of the game and third three-goal game of the season. Jefferson earned a corner kick, and Aliyah Ramil lofted a perfect ball to Still, who was virtually uncovered by Auburn Riverside, and Still beat Reckling again, saving the Raiders from their first loss of the season.
Jefferson looks to keep its undefeated streak alive against the rival Decatur Golden Gators at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Thomas Jefferson High School.
“I don’t think we’ll change too much,” Hauck said. “We’ll focus on the mental side of things. This is a talented group. They know it, the league knows it. We just have to find a way to have that confidence from minute one to the final whistle.”