Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer|
Austin High junior Rachel Brown (with trophy) celebrates with teammates minutes after receiving the Morgan County girls soccer championship trophy at the Jack Allen Recreation Complex on Monday. Austin defeated Decatur 1-0 in the finals. Brown made the all-tournament team.
Austin, Brewer champs
Sisters team to kick game's lone goal
By Bradley Handwerger
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Sara Brown and her younger sister Rachel weren't getting along Monday afternoon.
The two Austin soccer players were having a self-described family argument leading up to the Lady Black Bears game against Decatur.
By sunset, that tiff was long gone.
Sisters Brown connected with each other in the 77th minute of the Morgan County Soccer Tournament championship game to give the Lady Black Bears a 1-0 win, their first Morgan County title since 2004.
"We were in an argument before the game started. But now it's all good," said Rachel, bear-hugging Sara, both with smiles plastered on their faces.
It was Rachel, a junior, who began the scoring opportunity. She ran down a loose ball rolling quickly down to the touchline. After turning the ball back, she crossed it in the air to the 18-yard box, where sister Sara, a senior, stood ready to pounce.
The ball bounced once, then the older Brown volleyed it past Decatur goalkeeper Shannon Laughlin into the back of the net.
"I knew she could save it with her speed," Sara said. "I just tried to be in the right place at the right time."
For the first time in 2007, Austin (12-11) owns a victory over Decatur.
The Lady Red Raiders (11-7-3) won the previous two encounters 2-0 and 1-0, the latter coming on the second day of the very tournament Austin won.
Maybe it was those two losses that spurred Austin to the win. The elder Brown wasn't so sure those defeats meant Austin was worse than Decatur was, she said.
"I told the team at halftime that we'd lost twice but that doesn't mean they're a better team," Sara Brown said.
On Monday, Austin took the play to Decatur early. But in the final 20 minutes of the game, Decatur came alive, sending wave after wave of attacks that produced good scoring opportunities.
The ball, though, wouldn't go into the goal.
Austin goalkeeper Stephanie White had lot to do with that.
"We seemed like we shot all our shots near-post when we had the far-post open," Decatur head coach Mike Pline said. "And Stephanie made some great saves."
Said White: "I worked on close-range shots for that reason. Decatur takes close shots instead of in the distance, outside the 18."
Decatur outshot Austin 9-4 and had two more cornerkicks in the game. Nevertheless, that didn't translate into any goals. One of the Lady Red Raiders' best chances came early in the first half when Meg Adams broke free down the right side of the field.
She beat the Austin defense, but White stymied Adams, blocking the shot back at Adams, bloodying her nose.
For the time being, Decatur's main threat at forward wasn't on the field. Austin,
though, couldn't take advantage.
Decatur missed another chance in the final 10 minutes when Adams overran a perfectly placed cornerkick that gave her a wide-open look into the goal.
Then again, when you've got a sister act at work, you might not have much to worry about. Austin head coach Richie Simon had a feeling before the game that Rachel Brown was going to have a breakout performance.
That's why, late in the match, he moved her from her normal defender position to the front.
"She's been instrumental throughout the tournament," Simon said.
"She's been playing at a breakneck pace. When I put her up top, she did exactly what I asked her to do — get the ball to the middle."
It was only natural that her older sister was the teammate who hit the game-winning shot off of her cross. "We read minds," Rachel Brown said.
Morgan County girls all-tournament soccer team as voted on by the coaches:
Decatur High: Jennifer Neill, Meg Adams, Georgia Gamble
Austin: Rachel Brown, Ashley Jenness, Stephanie White
Brewer: Arlee Sowder, Alexandra Morris.
Hartselle: Leighann McNamara
Priceville: Stephanie Varner
West Morgan: Brittany Dover
MVP: Anna Zellner, Austin
Coach of the year: Richie Simon, Austin
Bradley Handwerger, daily sports writer
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