By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Keeping her Millington Lady Trojans alive from her goalie position, Kalia Duckworth leaped to the opportunity to take a penalty kick to try to win the 2021 District 15-2A Tournament against the Covington Lady Chargers.
Millington Coach William Carter shouted down Hornet Field to his goalie to allow her teammate Julizeth Cuevas take the next shot, ‘You’ll get the next one.’ After 100 minutes, the game was scoreless. With 13 penalty kicks in the record book, Covington had four and Millington tallied four. Cuevas’ attempt was blocked, setting up another set of penalty kicks.
Duckworth regrouped and stopped the next Lady Charger PK, setting the table for her attempt to be the possible game-winner. Using her goalie instincts, Duckworth spotted where her counterpart was trending. With the perfect placement, Duckworth blasted her shot into the back of the net winning Millington the district title.
“While I was kicking it, I was thinking I have to make this shot,” the junior said. “Then I realized the goalie was shifting more to the left. I realized if I try to kick more to the pole, she’s not going to be able to stop it. It went in.”
When asked if she practices kicking into the goal during practice, Duckworth said, “Absolutely not.”
Being transparent, Duckworth said the moment, adrenaline and cheering from her teammates gave her the confidence to win the championship.
“We saw Kalia and Kalia was ready,” Millington captain Alexis Thompson said. “We looked over at Coach and said, ‘She’s going.’ She took and made it because it was pure happiness. We all teared up.
“Kalia is so athletic,” Thompson added. “We threw her into the goal and she just took her new spot. So we just knew she would score it.”
Defense won this championship. The 2021 District 15-2A Defensive Player of the Year Micaiah Halliburton led the defensive line of TraOnna Blake, Allix Gordon and Thompson neutralized the Covington offense for 100 minutes.
The Cook sisters of Tess and Christina played solid midfield with Dayanna Hernandez and Julizeth Cuevas. The strikers of Rilee Ervin, Keria McGhee and Koreena Bedford had several shots on goal but the outstanding play of the Covington goalie kept Millington scoreless.
“Our team dug in deep,” Thompson said. “I think this is the hardest I’ve seen our team fight all year. Lots of crisp passes, triangles, through-balls, it was teamwork. It was 100 hard and sweaty minutes.
“We hard that last whistle blow, we collected ourselves, went to get water and we had one final team prayer,” she added. “Then we lined up on this line here and put our arms around each other. We kept each other up.”
Once the two 10-minute extra periods were done, it was time for the teams to pick five players to take penalty kicks to decide the title.
“I was scared,” Duckworth acknowledged. “I was thinking the only PKs I’ve ever stopped came directly to me. I never really had stopped a PK. I was petrified.”
After Covington scored, Millington Tess Cook deadlocked the PKs at 1-1 with a goal. The Lady Chargers went ahead 2-1 after the next set of kicks.
Round Three, Covington scores again going ahead 3-1.
“Honestly I was thinking I never have to stop it or it all over,” Duckworth said. “I was about to ball out there. I realized I had so many more before it’s over. So I had to get my head back into it.”
Senior Koreena Bedford headed to the line and the leading scorer for Millington connected, keeping her team alive and making the tally 3-2.
The fourth set of kicks, Covington hit the crossbar. Thompson came up clutch darting the ball into the corner making the tally 3-3.
Covington’s fifth penalty kick was good and the Lady Chargers were ahead 4-3. The Lady Trojans were a miss away from losing the title. Senior Keria McGhee delivered and scored to make it 4-4.
Millington and Covington needed extra penalty kicks to solve the equation of who will be the champion.
Both teams missed the next round of kicks. Covington’s goalie requested to take a shot to Duckworth’s surprise. She geared up to stop her peer and slapped away her attempt.
Duckworth was inspired to take a penalty kick and with her teammates’ support, Coach Carter intervened to allow Cuevas a shot at the win. Her attempt was blocked.
Duckworth was primed to get her chance to kick the winning goal but first she had to stop one more Covington shot. She did her first job and stopped the Lady Charger shot.
Next to the line, Duckworth made her mental adjustment and aimed her shot like a seasoned veteran to win the championship.
Now the Lady Trojans will host the Regional Semifinals at Hornet Field and if advance Millington will be the location of the Regional title game Oct. 21.
“Thinking next week we have to stay locked in and show up to do our best,” Duckworth concluded.