WATSON - Second-seeded Lakeshore, led by a hat trick from Kylie Milligan, was able to combine talent and some good fortune into a 4-1 victory in a Division II state quarterfinal playoff match No. 10 Live Oak, ending the Lady Eagles’ best season in school history.
Live Oak (18-5-1) appeared in its first state quarterfinal match, one that couldn’t have started any better than with a goal from senior Alicia Carlos.
Carlos opened the scoring in the 13th minute with yet another highlight-reel goal. She was posted in front of goal and got a foot on a cross in the air, swinging it around her body.
Lakeshore goalkeeper Shanna Boulder was in a good position, but the ball simply curled around her and into the back corner of the net.
“Unbelievable,” Live Oak first-year coach Kraig Zeller said. “Great ball. Great shot.”
"Whenever I step on the field, my main priority is to get the ball in the back of the net,” Carlos said. “I didn’t want tonight to be the last time I played. I wanted this for my team. I want it all for my girls, I always play for my team. I left it all on the field.”
However, Lakeshore (18-3-4) stormed back before halftime with two goals that came off uncharacteristic mistakes from Live Oak.
In the second half the Titans took command, shutting down the hosts with their depth.
“It started off very well,” Zeller said. “I told the girls that we had to withstand the pressure in the first 15 minutes, which I think we did quite well. I felt like in our center-mid position we were a more dominant team than they were. They were a very long ball directed team. Their back four really gets the ball up and it wore us out as the game went on.”
As time wore on, Lakeshore’s (18-3-4) bench made a bigger impact on the match with the Titans able to rely on their depth, long a short-coming for Live Oak, which only had healthy players to substitute.
“It caught up with us,” Zeller said. “It’s hard when you’re playing with 14 players and you start to play the upper echelon teams. We ran out of gas, you saw it the last 15 minutes of this game. We were just trying to hold our heads up and survive it. It makes a big difference.”
The Titans outshot the Eagles 16-4 and placed nine of their shots on target while the Eagles landed three of their shots on frame.
Live Oak tried to hold on for next 20 minutes, but in the 36th minute the Titans drew even with a free kick that flew over the Eagles’ wall.
Goalkeeper Kylie Stringer charged the ball, but it was popped up in front of her and went over her head an into the net. Stringer’s hard luck continued two minutes later when she made a good save, but lost control of the ball when she hit the ground. Milligan was in the right place at the right time and tapped it in to push Lakeshore ahead 2-1.
The Titans added a third goal almost by accident in the 53rd minute.
Milligan hit a cross that sailed high and long, but it bounced off the post and into the net. She secured her hat trick in the 59th minute when Live Oak couldn’t clear a corner after three headers and when the ball landed at her feet, Milligan finished a first-time touch and the Titans wound up scoring the game’s last four goals.
Live Oak, which loses three seniors, took solace that it wasn’t too far off the mark from the state’s elite teams after a strong first-half performance – a year after missing out on the playoffs entirely.
“It’s honestly been mind-blowing,” an emotional Carlos said of her final game. “We’ve been shook this whole time, none of us were expecting it. We stepped on the field this season with a great coach, he came in and he really helped us get our minds back from the last couple of years. We went downhill and he really brought us back up to where we are. He never stopped pushing us. It’s been a great journey.”
“This is the beginning of something special for the school,” Zeller said. “We can build on this…they bought into a system and they believed in each other. They were teammates, and they played for each other this year.”