MARIETTA -- An opening flurry and an early goal were just too much for Collins Hill.
In the opening match of the Class AAAAA playoffs the visiting Eagles drew the state's No. 1 overall team in Walton and despite an early lapse on a wavy field they stood strong against their bigger, taller foe.
The Eagles' season ended in a 2-0 loss, but the second goal came in the final minutes as they desperately tried to find the back of the net.
"It doesn't matter if it is 2-0, 3-0, 4-0, you have to score," Collins Hill coach Jeff Tinklepaugh said. "We had to be one of the toughest four seeds in the tournament."
But against the toughest No. 1 seed, the Eagles just couldn't find their offense.
And early falls short in its description of the Raiders' first goal.
In the second minute Brook Theobald played a corner kick short and when Walton played it back to her, she found Sarah Durdaller on the far side who pushed the ball into the net.
That was all it took.
The Eagles recovered from the early charge and didn't allow another goal until the 78th minute. Keeper Sage DoVale came away with a handful of saves and stops, including deflecting a one-on-one shot in the 25th minute in the first half. While Collins Hill had plenty of runs on goal, it came away with few shots, but the pressure increased as the half continued.
"I felt like we outplayed them into the second half," Tinklepaugh said.
The energy that built in the first half, continued early in the second with the Eagles making run after run at the Raider net, but coming up short.
"We just didn't put one in the net," Tinklepaugh said.
And just as in the first half, DoVale and the defense stood tall.
No one on the Collins Hill sideline knew how many saves she had, but the consensus was "a lot." And she did more than stop shots, she redirected defenses, forced shots wide and high and even made some luck. In the 66th minute a shot slipped past DoVale and clanged off the post, saving a goal.
"She plays her position very well," Tinklepaugh said of his senior. "She is a leader out there. She's always coaching."
And DoVale is one of six Eagle seniors who took part in the senior walk after the game, hugging their underclassmen teammates.
"Those are tough moments," Tinklepaugh said.
But the moments were easier by the effort against Walton. Not finding a way to score stung. The loss stung. The early exit stung. But to wins are all that matter in the playoffs.
"What does it matter if you play the best team first or last? You got to play them," Tinklepaugh said. "We were just missing that final piece and that's the most difficult piece to put together."