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By JASON DAVIS
The Mountain Press
The Gatlinburg-Pittman Lady Highlanders clinched a spot in the state tournament-deciding sectional round of the A-AA soccer playoffs with a 5-2 Region 2-A/AA tournament victory over the Kingston Yellow Jackets.
The victory sets up a G-P/Christian Academy of Knoxville region championship match for the second year in a row while Kingston’s season ended with the loss.
G-P (20-2 overall) earned the spot by controlling Kingston on both ends of the field Tuesday night.
Lady Highlanders senior Karsen Sims was in the zone, scoring four goals and adding an assist in the big win.
“She played well,” G-P coach Whit Helton said. “She was just in the right place at the right time on most of those goals, and we did a great job of setting up those goals.”
Sims scored the team’s first goal just 10 minutes in, taking a pass up the left sideline from teammate Micki Werner and beating Kingston keeper Erica Ostrander for the goal, as she squeezed the ball through a tiny window through the goalie’s outstretched hands.
Late in the first half, G-P tacked on two more goals to go up 3-0.
At the 6:30 mark, Sims took a pass from Alyssa Hale and again beat the keeper to make it 2-0. Three minutes later, Kasey Sumeriski made the best of a Sims’ corner kick, putting it into the back of the opponents’ net.
G-P continued their strong play through much of the second half.
Just seven minutes in Sims earned her hat trick on an assist from Alicia Sumeriski, and not 10 minutes later she netted her fourth goal on Werner’s second assist of the night.
Finally, trailing 5-0 with under 10 minutes remaining, Kingston ended their scoring drought with a Brooke Bales goal.
G-P keeper Morgan Manning had made a brilliant save just a second earlier, but was drawn out to make the save and was unable to recover in time to keep Bales’ attempt out.
With no time left on the clock, Kingston’s Taylor Whitehead used a free kick to chip another goal in, just over Manning’s outstretched gloves, ending the game with a 5-2 score.
For Kingston, head coach Elik Pickell was proud of his team despite the loss.
“Overall, we have had an exceptional year,” he said. “We went undefeated in district play, won our side of the district in regular season, and advanced through the district tournament into the regions.
“With only one senior and three juniors, I have been very pleased with our development. Given the amount of experienced players Kingston lost to graduation from last year’s team, this squad really worked hard to improve through the year and I am very proud of them.”
Now, the games will get a lot tougher for G-P.
The rematch with CAK was played Thursday in Knoxville.
Gatlinburg-Pittman hosted last year’s Region 2-A/AA final with the Lady Warriors, who won 4-1 and went on to win the state championship.
CAK is unbeaten this season (21-0-3) but has been tied three times, by Farragut, Bearden and Knox West.
Helton sees Gatlinburg-Pittman’s biggest challenge with CAK coming in the form of the Lady Warriors’ tough defense.
“Their defenders are fantastic, so I think we’ll (have our hands full there),” he said following the Tuesday night win.
“But I’m really looking forward to going down there and seeing how we match up with them.”