ATHENS, Tenn. — Mayson Liner was given ample opportunities to help her McMinn County soccer team clinch the District 5-AAA regular-season championship Thursday night against Soddy-Daisy. And she took advantage of every one of them.
The Lady Cherokees' junior goalkeeper finished with 10 official saves and added three stops in a penalty-kicks shootout as they claimed their first regular-season title since 2005. The match was tied at 2 in regulation, but McMinn won with a 4-3 edge in the PKs against the Lady Trojans, who had won the previous four district titles.
When asked her mentality toward a penalty kick, Liner said, "I'm going to get it. It's my ball. For goalkeepers, you have to practice shootouts, because opponents should always score on them. There's an 80-20 chance that they're going to score, and I'm the 20, but I'm relieved it's over and we got the win."
For good measure, she added a goal in the shootout, but it was her saves that were huge. She ranged far to her left to make the first shootout save -- with her team down 3-2 -- then stopped the next two attempts as well. McMinn tied the shootout at 3 on her conversion, then clinched the win on freshman Morgan Hutchinson's netter.
The Lady Cherokees (9-1-2, 6-0) jumped to a 2-0 lead 16 minutes into the match on a pair of goals by Mia Kesler, but Soddy-Daisy added another forward to its attack and started to get opportunities on goal as the match wore on. Megan Weller trimmed the deficit in half in the 50th minute, and Miranda Smith tied the match in stoppage time.
"We had that lead and I think we got frantic," McMinn coach Brittany Hart said. "Soddy-Daisy is a high-pressure team, and sometimes we lose our composure, but it means a lot to go undefeated in the district. That meant a lot to the girls."
Soddy-Daisy had won 34 consecutive matches against district opponents before falling 3-0 on Tuesday to East Hamilton.
"Our Achilles' heel has been consistency," Soddy-Daisy coach Moises Drumond said. "When we come to play, we're good, but we've had a hard time finding that consistency.We fought tonight -- we kept fighting even though it looked out of reach at the half -- and I'm proud of the girls."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.