GEORGETOWN — It was literally an unusual position.
Typically a defender, Salado junior Grace Graham found herself starting at forward during the Lady Eagles’ second-round playoff game against Taylor on Tuesday at Georgetown East View High School.
And she immediately took advantage of her new spot on the field.
In the match’s sixth minute, Graham corralled a deflected save and redirected the ball into the back of the net, giving Salado an early cushion that expanded into a 3-0 victory.
Following the contest, Graham admitted she was simply grateful for the opportunity.
“When I was told that I’d be playing up top,” Graham said, “I was so excited, but the team as a whole was there, and without them, I wouldn’t have been able to put that ball in.
“It was a pretty amazing moment.”
The Lady Eagles went on to post another goal before halftime and virtually ensured the outcome with their third goal a little more than midway through the second half.
Graham’s goal, however, was perhaps the most important, according to Salado head coach Michael Goos.
“That was big,” he said. “Any time you can score first in a playoff game, it is huge.”
“That really picked us up,” she said. “We were able to play our game without fear for the whole rest of the half.”
The one-goal lead held for approximately the next 32 minutes until junior Hannah Reavis slipped a shot past the Lady Ducks goalkeeper with less than three minutes remaining before the break.
Along with an advantage, the Lady Eagles entered halftime with something equally valuable — momentum.
“We were feeling pretty good at halftime,” Goos said. “We went through a lull after that first goal, so to get that second one before halftime was really big.
“It made a big difference to have a two-goal cushion. That really helped us.”
Salado (20-6-1) delivered the game’s final goal in the 63rd minute, when Caelan Teer connected on a shot from 25 yards out, slipping the ball just underneath the crossbar.
The Lady Eagles dominated the field throughout, rarely allowing Taylor (13-10-1) to cross midfield and winning the shots-on-goal battle 16-1.
Now, Salado prepares for its first trip to the Class 4A regional quarterfinals since 2017, when the Lady Eagles lost to Boerne as the Lady Greyhounds advanced all the way to the state final.
Salado will play No. 10 Wimberley on Thursday, Friday or Saturday after the Lady Texas defeated Giddings 2-1 on Tuesday.
While it will not be easy to reach the regional semifinals, Goos believes his team has an advantage after playing No. 6 Liberty Hill twice during District 27-4A competition, including a shootout victory against the Lady Panthers on March 8.
“Liberty Hill just came back into our district this year,” he said, “and even though I knew they’d give us tough games and be hard, that’s what I wanted.
“I like having that challenge, and I think the girls are better for it.”