By Nick Hampton
FORT GIBSON — Their T-shirts have said it all this season — Season of Redemption.
And that’s just what the Fort Gibson Lady Tigers got as they avenged last year’s double-overtime upset loss at the hands of Wagoner with a 2-1 victory over the Lady Bulldogs in the first round of the Class 4A soccer playoffs Tuesday night at Leo Donahue Stadium.
“We marked this game on our calendar at the beginning of the season,” said Lady Tigers coach Jamie Snyder. “We were determined that if we got here again this season we wouldn’t let the same thing happen.
“I knew Wagoner was going to give us a dogfight. They’re a great team and Coach (Brandon) Carr does a great job with them.”
A combination of speed and deft passing paved the way for the Lady Tigers as both teams played great defense.
“This was a game of marks,” said Snyder. “They marked our best offensive player and we marked their best offensive player and the difference was we got loose a couple of times.”
Fort Gibson, 10-1, No. 2 in Class 4A by Okrankings.com) which moves into a quarterfinal road game Friday at Glenpool, got the only goal of the first half as Gabby Escamillia put a through ball to speedy sophomore forward Jordan Raynor. She beat the defender, but her shot was deflected by Wagoner goalkeeper Mikayla Taylor. However, Sanya Januszweski was in the right spot to put it back in and the Lady Tigers carried a 1-0 lead into intermission.
It took the Lady Bulldogs (11-5) just six minutes into the second half to tie the game as Skylar Bruce bent a corner kick to freshman Kallie Smith right in front of the goal and she flicked it past Fort Gibson goalie Kyndra Johnson to make it 1-1
For the next 30 minutes, Fort Gibson controlled the action and just missed on a couple of opportunities. Then with five minutes left, it again was the combination of a perfect through ball by Escamillia to a speeding Raynor, who outran the defender to the ball and this time put it in the net for the winning goal.
“Jordan’s speed is such as advantage for us. If we play the ball to her out in space, there aren’t many defenders that can run with her,” said Snyder. “But you also have to give a lot of credit to Gabby, Brooke (Benham) and Sanya. They do a great job of getting her those balls.”
Raynor echoed the thoughts of her team as she talked about the victory.
“They beat us last year in the same game and it was really heartbreaking,” said Raynor. “So this whole season we’ve played and practiced just hoping we’d get another chance at them.”
With a big rebuilding job this year after making it to the state semifinals last year, Brandon Carr was proud of the way his Lady Bulldogs progressed this year.
“We lost eight starters off last year’s team and I told the girls after the game that I was so proud of going from the start of the year when we lost to Fort Gibson’s junior varsity to making it into the playoffs again,” said Carr. “The nice part is we have eight starters back off this team for next year.”