After 90 minutes of regulation time, two overtime periods, two sudden-death overtimes and four shootout penalty kicks, Maryville Lady Rebel goalkeeper Bekkah Massaro was facing what could have been the last shot of her high school career.
“We were playing at Maryville College against Science Hill, and it was a pretty rough game with some big defensive stops,” Massaro said. “Then it got dark, and we had to move the game to the high school with the game still tied and played the two five minute overtime periods, then two sudden death overtimes. All our players had made their (penalty) kicks, and it came down to the last shot.”
As the fifth and final penalty left the foot of her opponent, Massaro broke left and stopped the shot, lifting the Lady Rebels to victory in one of the greatest sporting events Blount County has ever witnessed.
The final score in the 1994 state tournament Round of 16 game: 0-0 (5-4 Maryville in a shootout).
It’s a match then Maryville coach Jesse Robinette will never forget.
“As a coach, you go back and remember big plays and those teams that just love to compete,” he said, “and that team had both. That’s what I remember most about it.
“Bekkah was sort of the leader of that bunch, and nobody wanted to compete more than her.”
What is most incredible about Massaro’s heroics on the game’s final shot is that until a knee injury to the starter in the district tournament Massaro had played fullback all year. She’d been in goal the previous season but had spent the entire fall focusing on developing her skills at fullback.
To make matters worse, the player taking the final kick for the Hilltoppers was a high-scoring forward who’d signed with Auburn.
Massaro was also an accomplished softball player at Maryville, and the skills she acquired there - quick reactions and the ability to track the ball - were the things that made Maryville coaches decide to try her at goal.
After her time as a Lady Rebel, Massaro would go on to play both soccer and softball at the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky.
“It was great; it was like having two families up there,” Massaro said. “I wouldn’t trade anything about my college experience. Playing two sports made for a lot of late nights studying because we wouldn’t back from a game till late, but it was good. I loved it.”
Today, Massaro teaches special education at Rush Strong School in Strawberry Plains and coaches softball at Jefferson County High.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to have many wonderful teachers and many wonderful coaches,” she said. “When you come across a good teacher or great coach, you see how much they influence your life. I wanted to do something that would have an impact and help people.”
While in college, Massaro said she gained a passion for special needs children while volunteering to help with Special Olympics and has maintained that passion since.
“In college I had the opportunity to a coach softball team in the Special Olympics,” she said. “To me it’s almost the purest form of excitement when a special child accomplishes something. It’s just pure joy and pure excitement. That’s when I decided this is what I wanted to do; I want to help special education kids.”
While the success with that team may not have been measured in wins and losses, her team at Jefferson County has achieved a great deal in that department. The Lady Patriots are coming off an appearance in the state tournament under Massaro last season.
“Last year every time they stepped on that field they knew what they had to do,” she said. “They might not have been the most talented group of girls every time but they were always the hardest working. It all comes down to who wants it more, and, last year, our team wanted it more.”
With much of that team returning, Massaro expects another good season this year.
“Early in the season, I think this team has the opportunity to make some waves and open some people’s eyes and get back to state if that is what they work to do,” she said.