On a chilly, soggy night, Olivia Max probably should have been sitting on the Henry Clay bench in her warmups keeping her right ankle elevated.
The sophomore suffered a high ankle sprain just a couple of weeks ago, and it's still not fully healed.
But Max didn't want to watch the semifinals of the 26th District tournament from the bench.
She had some scoring to do. In limited time on a very limited ankle, Max managed to put the No. 23 Devils up over No. 22 Scott County 1-0 with eight minutes left in the first half.
Coaches and trainers "told her if she wanted to play, she was going to have to suck it up and play through some pain, and she was willing to do that," Coach Mebit Aragaw said. "She was amazing."
It looked like Max's goal would stand until six minutes remained and the Cardinals had the tying goal negated by a hotly contested foul in the box.
The Devils' Caroline Kaplan added a transition goal in the final two minutes to seal the win for defending district champion Henry Clay, 2-0 over the Cardinals, who suffered just their second defeat of the season.
The Devils will play No. 15 Tates Creek in Thursday's championship game. The Commodores topped Sayre 4-0 in the first semifinal game. Both teams advance to the 13th Region Tournament, but the winner earns the chance to host the event next week.
Max's first practice back for Henry Clay was Tuesday. She didn't start Wednesday night and played only about 20 minutes, all in the first half.
But she made that time count, chipping in a shot around keeper Cecily Larkin after drawing her out.
"I just remember the goalie coming out and putting the ball in," Max recalled. "It was exciting because everyone was kind of tense."
It looked like Scott County was going to force overtime with less than six minutes to go in the game.
The Cardinals had a series of four straight corner kicks, but couldn't capitalize.
They had the one go in, but as the players celebrated and hugged, it was called off.
"(The center official) basically said there was a push on the goalie," Cards Coach Francis O'Hara said. "I didn't see it, but you can't reverse a call.
"If the goal would have counted, obviously it would have been a different game. Going into overtime, it could have been anybody's ball game. That took the wind out of our sails, obviously."
But O'Hara was proud of his team's season. They had previously lost only one game all year and had scored 96 goals.
"This is a hard loss for our girls," he said. "They've worked their (tails) off all season."
Tates Creek 4, Sayre 0: When Coach Bo Lankster took over the girls' team in the off-season, one of the first things the players told the coach is that they wanted the streak of two straight first-round exits to end.
"They were tired of bowing out early in the post-season," he said.
They didn't Wednesday night, looking all business. Even though they had topped the Spartans 6-1 in the regular season, they didn't take anything for granted.
The Creekers had just seen their boys' team upset a top 10 team the night before.
"We knew coming out that anything can happen," said Maggie Schlich, who scored for Creek. "We've seen a million games in districts that were upsets, and we didn't want that to happen to us. It's been a great season, and we want to go really far."
Creek outshot Sayre 11-2 and recorded its 12th shutout of the season.
Jessica Carter took a feed from Carleigh Adams to put Creek up 16 minutes into the first half. Alyssa Kruse added another goal in transition up the right side with five minutes left in the half.
With 1:39 to go, Schlich popped a left-footed goal up and over keeper Beth McGrath to make it 3-0 before the break.
"It's always a relief when you see a ball hit the back of the net," she said. "It definitely felt good, and we hope to continue that with these games coming up."
Freshman Destinie Graves added an insurance goal with 24 minutes left to make it 4-0.
Tates Creek 4, Sayre 0
Goals—Jessica Carter, Alyssa Kruse, Maggie Schlich, Destinie Graves. Goalkeepers—S: Beth McGrath; TC: Kathryn Murray.
Records—Sayre 7-8-1, Tates Creek 17-1-2.
Henry Clay 2, Scott County 0
Goals—HC: Olivia Max, Caroline Kaplan. Goalkeepers—HC: Kayla Price; SC: Cecily Larkin.
Records—Henry Clay 11-4-2, Scott County 16-2-4.