Evans girls soccer coach Kevin Musick has wondered all season how he should handle the abundant talent of Jameela Bryant. The junior is one of the best attacking players in the area, but also the Knights' top goalkeeper.
During the opening round of the Class AAAA state playoffs Wednesday night, Evans got to simultaneously enjoy both of her talents when the game advanced to a shootout.
Bryant booted in the third penalty kick and allowed only one goal while playing keeper during the shootout, boosting Evans to a 3-2 win over visiting Effingham County. The Knights, who gave up a goal 144 seconds into the game, scored twice in the final 3:41 to force overtime before prevailing.
Evans, the Region 3-AAAA champion who will play host to Lee County next Wednesday in the second round, didn't allow a goal over the final 25 minutes and dominated both five-minute overtime periods. The Knights won in penalty kicks for the second time in as many tries this season, after previously defeating region runner-up Lakeside by the same score.
"The girls were aggressive, played hard and had a lot of pride in the program," Musick said.
Evans (12-4) was both fortunate and cursed to take the game to a shootout against the fourth-place team out of Region 2-AAAA. The Knights trailed by two goals with less than four minutes to play, but scored twice to engineer the comeback. They then shot the ball high and wide on perfect scoring chances in both of the five-minute overtime periods and had to settle for the shootout. Both teams missed their first penalty kick, but Evans never missed again, getting conversations from Bryant, Kim Fischer and Brittany Ufret.
Both of the team's goals came after Musick shifted Bryant from the goal and into an attacking position with about 15 minutes left.
"It gives me that aggressiveness on offense," Musick said. "She's my best forward and my best goalie too. That's pretty much it."
Bryant created scoring chances, but the Knights didn't earn a goal until Brittany Huggins converted a breakaway with 3:41 left. The equalizer came with 76 seconds to play. Ufret swerved in a free kick from the left side of the penalty box, and the ball floated toward a mass of defenders positioned on the far post. The assistant referee twirled his flag to signal a handball, and Fischer booted in the 12-yard kick.
Effingham coach Hilary White shook her head while recounting the sequence, instead remembering that her defender had crossed her arms to protect her chest -- a legal move in girls soccer.
Effingham (8-6-2) got goals from Sydnie VanCuran and Marissa Hamm, who ripped a shot in from 40 yards out over Bryant's head in the game's first three minutes.
"I felt pretty confident going into it," White said. "But it just didn't go our way this time."