Within a three-day span at the Atlantic Sun Women's Soccer Championships, three comebacks fueled Kennesaw State's run to their second title in the last three years, but only one took place on the field in terms of goals.
In Saturday's title match with the defending champion Belmont Bruins, the Owls recovered from allowing a first-half penalty-kick goal to the Bruins' Jessica Rix with a pair of goals in the second half to claim the league championship. The first goal came courtesy of Maylee Attin-Johnson on a half volley to right side of the net.
Attin-Johnson had a head in the Kennesaw State attack that ultimately resulted in the Owls' second goal. Her header on net would have found goal if not for a lunging save from Rix, but with the ball still inside the penalty area, the Owls earned a penalty shot of their own after a hand ball inside the box.
For Attin-Johnson and teammate Caitlin Dingle, the goal scorer in the Owls' 1-0 semifinal overtime victory against Jacksonville, Saturday's championship completed comebacks two years in the making. As sophomores, both had been part of a championship squad in 2007 that rolled up a 17-4 record and the program's first A-Sun Championship.
The following season, Dingle opened the year as the league's preseason Player of the Year and the Owls picked up all 11 first-place votes from the coaches as the league favorite. Injuries cost Attin-Johnson her entire 2008 campaign and Dingle only played in three games. Both watched from the sidelines as the Owls' bid for a repeat title ended against these same Bruins in the semifinals on penalty kicks. In 2009, both worked their way back into the lineup and delivered a third regular-season crown and a second A-Sun Championship victory.
"To come back from knee surgeries takes a lot and they've been getting better and healthier the longer the season has gone on," Owls' head coach Rob King said. "And to cap it like that, particularly for Maylee with a fantastic goal, but both of them, on their home field in front of home fans and to go back to the NCAA Tournament, it doesn't get any better than that."
Following her goal, Attin-Johnson bolted up the near sideline, past the boisterous crowd and displayed the speed she displayed prior to her injuries.
"I think it was all adrenaline, " Attin-Johnson said. "After I ran I was tired, I was like 'what am I thinking about' but I had to do it; I had make that run, my people from the Caribbean came out [for] support, so I had to give them something to cheer about."
In the postgame awards ceremony, when it came time for the Owls to collect their hardware, the team's three seniors, Attin-Johnson, Dingle and Defensive Player of the Year, Bridget Gaughan, accepted the trophy before returning to the rest of the team
"I looked at Maylee and Bridget [Gaughan] and we were like 'this was the way it was supposed to be'...the three seniors, we're not done yet," Dingle said. "We win at home, we win our conference, our conference tournament, we're going to the NCAA tournament, it couldn't be any better."