Try to forgive Lady Longhorn coach Randy Wilcox if he showed up for school a little frazzled Monday morning.
The Rim Country Middle School PE teacher's emotions had been pushed to the limit only two days earlier in the championship round of the Higley Invitational Tournament. During two regulation halves, three overtimes, a shoot-out and sudden death, the Lady Horns came up a single kick short of winning the tournament title.
Most difficult for Wilcox was that he realized soccer defeats don't come much closer than that one.
He could coach the rest of his life and never witness a game so hotly and closely contested.
After 80 minutes of regulation play, the two teams were locked in a 0-0 tie. They battled through three overtimes that also ended scoreless.
During regulation and OT, Wilcox's frustration peaked watching Payson outshoot Higley 12-3 but never muster the winning goal.
Following OT, tournament rules called for a shoot-out in which each team would be allowed five shots at their opponent's goal.
In the shoot, both teams drug out the sister-kisser even further by scoring on three of their five attempts for another tie.
Officials scoured the rule books to see what was next on the agenda for breaking a tie.
"We decided to go into sudden death; the team that scored first would be the winner," Wilcox said.
Payson was awarded the first kick attempt at the goal but missed on the shot.
Wilcox was wringing the sweat from his soaked hands.
Finally, Higley ended the drama of the more than two-hour game by pushing its sudden death kick into the net.
Wilcox said he "was a little disappointed, because we had a chance in regulation to win but didn't finish our shots."
Earlier in the tournament, the Lady Horns earned the right to play in the gold-medal game with a 6-0 win over Estrella Footballs and a 4-0 thumping of Northwest Community Christian.
Against Estrella, Amy Wilcox, the coach's daughter, and Lori Wing paced Payson with two goals each. Jessica Coleman and Mary James each contributed a score.
Although the offense was clicking most of the game, the coach attributed the win to a Payson "D" that refused to bend.
"Our defense kept the ball on the offensive side of the field," he said. "We outshot Estrella 27-2."
In whipping Northwest, Amy Wilcox was a scoring machine tallying three goals. Her first, which came with only 58 seconds expired on the game clock, jump started the Payson effort. Later, James scored a goal on a penalty kick.
Once again, the Lady Horn "D" came up big.
"We held them to two shots," coach Wilcox said.
The two victories over Estrella and Northwest were no surprise to coach Wilcox.
"They were games we were supposed to win," he said.
In assessing the team's performance, the coach praised good passing and a strong work ethic.
"The kids played hard the whole game," he said. "The tournament also showed us some things we need to work on."
The team is slated to return to action at 4 p.m. Friday (today) on the Rumsey library field against visiting Basha.