After winning appeal, Long Beach playoff loss to West Jones feels like two defeats

After winning appeal, Long Beach playoff loss to West Jones feels like two defeats

LAUREL, MS (WLOX) - Despite winning an appeal to complete a playoff soccer game under state rules, the Long Beach girls' soccer team lost its second chance to advance in the 5A playoffs Thursday.

On Tuesday night, the Lady Bearcats were initially tied 0-0 with the West Jones Lady Mustangs after regulation and the two separate 10-minute overtime halves.

Instead of going to the required 5-minute, "Golden Goal" halves, a.k.a. sudden death, immediately after, the 20-year-old head referee told both teams to prepare for a shootout. While Long Beach head coach Cherie Griffith argued the ruling, the unidentified official told both sides to get ready for the penalty kicks.

West Jones was credited with a playoff win after converting four goals in the shootout compared to Long Beach's two. However, on Wednesday morning, Long Beach Athletic Director Forrest Williams told Griffith that they need to appeal for a chance to replay the game.

The appeal went in favor of Long Beach, but the two teams were only required to finish the sudden death periods and complete the game in a shootout, if necessary.

"In my experience in years past we always had the sudden death overtimes," West Jones head coach Joshua Sullivan said. "When that didn't shake out, we were wondering what was going on. We thought maybe things had changed but apparently not. We showed up though and we dealed with it."

As a result of this ruling, Long Beach traveled nearly two hours to West Jones High School in Laurel for a second time in three days. The shortened matchup was scheduled to begin at 4 p.m., but the game was delayed 45 minutes because one of the new officials arrived late.

West Jones and Long Beach were scoreless yet again through the two sudden death halves before William Carey commit and Lady Mustangs goalkeeper Abby Baravik stopped all three of the Lady Bearcats' attempts. West Jones scored on all three in the best-of-five shootout.

"If it would've been the other way around we probably would've done the same thing," Baravik said. "It's all in fairness of the game. They had every right to come back and say we missed that time. If they were going to win, they deserved it."

Once the West Jones players and coaching staff found out about the appeal ruling Wednesday morning, they were initially angry; not at Long Beach, but because this whole situation even existed.

"We let them get their anger out then instead of on the field because we all know if they brought it on the field, they wouldn't be concentrating on the game," Sullivan said. "Once we overcame that, we were able to focus, put together what we wanted to do and talk about what happened."

"What you want is the opportunity to do it the right way," Long Beach Athletic Director Forrest Williams said. "That's what we appealed to the state. West Jones is a great team and congratulations to them. Our girls had a great season and we're proud of them."

Long Beach (14-6-3) would've advanced to the second round to face George County if they were able to record a win. Instead, West Jones (14-4-2) will play in Lucedale Saturday.

While Griffith and the Long Beach players declined to comment after the game Thursday, Williams summed up their feelings after taking part in the postgame speech.

"I really haven't experienced anything like this where we had to come back a couple days later and revisit an overtime period with a lot of drama, pressure and other things going on," said Williams, who is also the team's bus driver. "It's unfortunate to end up on the losing side twice."