LILBURN - The Providence girls didn't lead until Sarah Jordan scored with 101⁄2 minutes left in regulation and that goal was the difference as the Stars dispatched Holy Innocents' 3-2 on Tuesday in the second round of the Class AA/A state soccer playoffs.
Top-ranked Providence had to rally twice against No. 6 Holy Innocents' before Jordan booted home the game-winning goal in the 70th minute.
"That kind of game needs to be a championship game or a game where everybody can move on," Stars' head coach Jonny Williamson said. "Nobody deserves to be done after that game.
"That's easily our biggest win this year."
The win, a hotly contested and well-played affair, avenged the 17-1 Stars' only loss of the season and boosted them into the Elite Eight.
Holy Innocents' defeated Providence 3-1 earlier this season, but the Stars were without Jordan in that game and the Bears were much healthier.
Holy Innocents' head coach Sarah Steinmann - who is Providence's all-time leading goal scorer - said injuries have taken their toll on her team. By the time Jordan got free with some fancy footwork inside the 18 and buried the go-ahead goal, the Bears had nothing left in the tank for a comeback.
"It was tough because we've lost a bunch of players to injury, but they did what we asked them - and that was to play their absolute best and to play for as long as they could," Steinmann said. "They did that and I couldn't be more proud of them, especially the seniors.
"We tried as hard as we could (in the last 10 minutes). We had low energy, but we did everything we possibly could."
Including moving senior Caroline Simpson to her regular midfield position in an effort to generate more offense. Simpson, who is headed to Georgia, spent most of the game marking Jordan.
Simpson ruthlessly patrolled the defensive zone for nearly 70 minutes, holding Providence's leading scorer in check. Jordan, who scored five goals in the Stars' first-round rout of Armuchee, is third all-time on Providence's goal list behind only Steinmann and Elizabeth Franklin. But Jordan was frustrated by Simpson at nearly every turn. It didn't stop the Clemson-bound junior from creating goals though.
Jordan assisted on each of Providence's first two goals, both scored by Mary Katherine Franklin.
Franklin was held out of last week's first-round game with a stress fracture that has plagued her off and on for the last two seasons. The senior was invaluable on Tuesday.
"Mary isn't extremely healthy, but with her and Sarah up top, we can score on anybody about any time," Williamson said. "It's a stress fracture type deal where there's not much you do but rest. And she's not willing to rest.
"I told her, as soon as the game was over, she needs to get back into the (protective) boot."
Franklin's goals answered go-ahead strikes by Holy Innocents' Kaitlin Hogeman and Becca Parke.
"It is tough to keep your composure, to not hang our heads," Franklin said of falling behind by a goal twice.
But they did.
Hogeman scored the game's first goal on a perfectly placed, arcing shot from the right side in the 12th minute.
Jordan sprung Franklin with a ball up the middle 16 minutes later. Franklin was in a footrace to the 18 and got one step ahead. Her shot beat two converging defenders and the onrushing goalkeeper with 10:41 left in the first half. Parke restored Holy Innocents' lead slightly more than 10 minutes into the second half, only to have Jordan and Franklin hook up again for a tying goal with just under 28 minutes remaining in
"I told Sarah that was kind of like a game-winning assist," Williamson said. "It showed a lot of leadership and maturity for her because that was a ball she probably could have shot, but Mary was more open. She made the right decision. "It was more important to her to get the goal and win the game than it was to get a goal (herself)."
Turns out Jordan got a goal anyway. And it was a game-winner.
Less than a minute after having a gorgeous left-footed blast turned aside, Jordan was again in deep thanks to Emily Bougas and Lauren Petmecky, who worked the ball up the field. Jordan wasn't foiled again, burying her shot with 10:36 to go.
"It wasn't an easy situation, especially with the weather being like 90 degrees," Jordan said of the comeback effort. "I just knew we had to keep the intensity level up (after the go-ahead goal) because they could come back like that.
"This is biggest win of the year, just because it gets us to the next level and it's single elimination."