The teams had played to a 1-1 tie in regulation and neither scored in the first of two overtime periods alloted to determine a winner for games that end in a tie.
Pittman’s goal came on the third corner kick in a row the Lady Tigers had earned in the period’s final moments as they aggressively battled to decide the game’s victor rather than letting the issue go to penalty kicks.
“I’m just overwhelmed right now with pride of our girls and how hard they’ve worked,” David Sexauer, Adairsville head coach, said. “They really wrestled a win away from a great team. My hat’s off to Cartersville. They’ll go just as far in the playoffs as anybody. They are an outstanding program.”
Chad Murray, Cartersville head coach, said Adairsville came to play and that effort was a key reason for its victory.
“The matchup with them is tough for us, the style of soccer we play versus theirs,” he said. “They really compact their goal. They have eight players within 20 yards of the goalie and they just let their offensive players run free.
“No. 3 (Pittman) can run all day and night without stopping, I believe.”
The Lady Canes had scored first, tallying their goal when Chloe Davis dribbled toward the goal from the right, prompting Adairsville keeper Amber Litteral to come charging out. Davis then fired from about 25 yards out a ball that scooted just to the left of Litteral and continued weakly to the left side of the goal for a 1-0 lead in the game’s 33rd minute.
The Cartersville advantage didn’t last long, however, as Adairsville knotted the score in the 35th minute when Pittman took a pass from Victoria Davis and dribbled to about 18 yards away and sent her shot to the left of Cartersville keeper Abby Robinson, where it found net and evened the score at 1-all.
The two teams carried that score into the halftime break.
Cartersville came close to scoring numerous times in the second half, as Litteral repeatedly thwarted shots. She diverted one attempt by Ashton Sanders with her hand, sending it just over the goal, missing by inches. She similarly rejected a header.
Both teams threatened in overtime but only Adairsville put the ball in the net.
Sexauer said he was proud of how his team responded when Cartersville took the lead.
“We came back and scored. That says a lot about our team,” he said. “The last game we played, they scored and we couldn’t.”
Cartersville closed the books on its regular season with a 14-3 overall record and was 13-1 in Region 5-AAA.
Adairsville is 16-1 overall and 13-1 in the region.
Adairsville is region champion because it gave up three goals to region opponents this season while Cartersville was touched for six goals by region foes.
Sexauer credited the work ethic of the Lady Tigers with their success.
“We’ve come so far this year. I’m really proud of the progress we’ve made and the willingness of the girls to just keep getting better and better,” he said. “Cartersville is a very good high quality team, well coached, and they were well prepared and we knew we were the underdog. We changed some formations, changed some personnel and tried to give them a look they weren’t familiar with and it worked in our advantage. The ball bounced in our way a few times. It could have gone either way in all honesty.
“I’m just proud we were able to take first. Now it’s all about the playoffs. I’m super proud of everybody that has helped our program, from our athletic director, our coaches, down to every player to include all our team managers.
He said Adairsville has a lot of ways to win, starting with its offense.
“[Kaitlyn Webster] is very quick and is probably the most improved player for us,” he said. “She’s a sophomore. She did great.
“Haley Pittman has been consistently one of our highest-scoring players. You have to have balance or teams will shut you down. That’s been part of our problem in previous years, but this year we have an offensive threat down both sides and up the middle. We also have an outstanding defense and we have an outstanding goalie. When you have all that, you win your share of games.”
Murray said Adairsville has shown a lot of improvement since the first time the teams met.
“They are almost like a different team,” the Cartersville coach said. “They were real good defensively the first time but today they were more physical and aggressive and they outworked us.”
Murray said the Lady Tigers did things right rather than the Lady Canes doing something wrong.
“I thought it was a great soccer match between two good soccer teams,” he said. “We had our chances but couldn’t find the back of the net.”
He predicted Adairsville “is going to give whoever they play fits in the playoffs.”
Murray said his team will put the loss behind it and get ready to play more great soccer.
“The good news is we have more soccer to play,” he added.