Troup makes thrilling comeback to earn draw in season opener

Published 7:00 am Friday, February 9, 2024

It was a wild ride for the Troup girls soccer team on Thursday as the team had to fight and claw from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw with Hardaway in their season opener at Callaway Stadium. 

“We showed grit, we showed heart and I know these girls are going to fight to the end no matter what,” Troup coach Carolyn Harkness said. 

The opening was frustrating for the home team. The Tigers were in a 2-0 hole for a large portion of the first half, but the girls kept on fighting.

“The opening had me a little bit stressed out, but I knew we were going to be able to find our groove together with a bunch of new starters,” Harkness said.

Eventually, Troup found its way into the goal when a shot from freshman Rachel Gibson was saved by the Hawks keeper and the ball trickled to the feet of Sophie Vaughn, who ripped a shot from well outside of the box over the goalkeeper’s head and into the back of the net with under four minutes to go in the first half.

“That goal was so important because it really got us back in it and put a fire in them,” Harkness said. “I told them no matter if we are down a goal or seven goals, we have to give it our all like it’s 0-0.”

The Tigers had just the momentum-swinging play they needed going into halftime. It would not take long for Troup to level the game in the second half with Gibson hitting a strong shot into the lower right corner of the net just 10 minutes into the second half as a sense of relief overcame the Troup sidelines.

Both teams had their fair share of chances, including Troup who squandered some good opportunities late in the game that could have given the home team a win.

“We felt like a goal was coming, but we couldn’t get that last little touch on it,” Harkness said. “We had some opportunities and we need to finish them, but we looked good and played with a lot of energy tonight.”

The Hawks also had their chance to win the game. Hardaway won a penalty kick with just minutes left in the game. With senior goalkeeper Haley Kitchens rooted to her spot, she could only watch as the ball cannoned off the post and breathed a sigh of relief.

“Everybody’s heart dropped when it was called,” Harkness said with a chuckle. “We knew Haley would have had it if it would have been on target.”

It is a youth-filled Troup team and Kitchens is one of the few veterans on the team. She came through in the second half with multiple big saves to preserve the draw for the Tigers.

“She came out for one late that scared the living life out of me, but having her back there to talk everybody up and make big saves is big for us and she is definitely one of the leaders on our team,” Harkness said.

Troup starts the season 0-0-1 and will be on the road for its next contest as the team will travel to Columbus to take on Shaw on Feb. 16.