The Lady Longhorns beat Westminster 11-10 on Saturday to clinch the program’s first state title and break a streak of four straight championships held by their Area 2 rival.
“We knew it was going to be a battle” Kell coach Todd Utt said. “They’re a seasoned team that’s been here before, and it’s always tough to beat a team twice in one season.”
Kell (20-1) had the edge on Westminster (17-5) in the regular season, beating the Lady Wildcats 14-9 on April 17.
Sarah Bialecki was the heroine for Kell, scoring the go-ahead goal with 2 minutes left in the game.
“We had gotten the ball turned over and I remember running with my teammate, Haley (Swift), and telling myself, ‘It’s 1-on-1. You’re going to get it,’ and I did. I’m so proud of my team.”
When asked if she thought the late score would be good enough to win the game, the junior attacker said simply, “Heck, yes.”
Kell led 8-7 at halftime, getting two goals apiece from Leslie Ferguson and Talen Francis in the first half. Ferguson scored again in the second half to break a 9-all tie.
After Kell opened the second half with a goal from Swift to take a 9-7 lead, Cabell Zakas set to work, getting the momentum back for Westminster.
The sophomore scored a goal in traffic to cut the Lady Wildcats’ deficit to 9-8. Then, with just over 10 minutes left in the game, Zakas collected herself with the ball behind the net, made a move to get in front of Kell’s goal and fired a shot off the crossbar to tie the game.
Zakas finished the game with five goals.
After Ferguson scored for Kell to regain a 10-9 lead, Westminster answered again, tying it on Isabelle Dadd’s goal with 5:39 left on the clock.
Westminster, however, was done scoring at that point, and all that was left was Bialecki’s championship-winning goal, followed by 2 minutes of focused “keepaway” by the Lady Longhorns.
“The goal (each season) is always a state championship,” Utt said. “This season was an amazing ride. We went 20-1 and had the best season in school history.”
Kell’s lone loss this season was to its east Cobb neighbor, and Class AAAAAA power, Lassiter. The title was the fifth team championship for the school, following a pair of fast-pitch softball titles in 2003 and ’04, a slow-pitch title in 2008 and boys track and field in 2012.
The Lady Longhorns will lose only five players to graduation, returning an experienced offense for the 2015 season, including Bialecki.
“This season was incredible,” Bialecki said. “Each year, we keep getting better and better, so I can’t wait to see what next year has in store for us.”