Briarwood Christian next for Lady Raiders in 5A soccer playoffs
By Josh Cooper
FORT PAYNE — As the clock struck zero, with Fort Payne players falling to the grass in tears after Decatur’s 2-1 Class 5A state quarterfinal victory, the Lady Red Raiders huddled together.
Then a yell came from the group of girls: “We’re going to the ’ship! We’re going to the ’ship!”
The Class 5A state championship semifinal round, that is.
After never having won a playoff game before the 2007 season, the Decatur girls soccer team picked up its second victory of the postseason and will play Briarwood Christian in the state semifinals Friday at 1:30 p.m. Briarwood defeated St. Paul’s 10-0 on Saturday.
“I can’t describe it,” Decatur coach Mike Pline said. “It’s such an honor for Decatur, and I can’t tell you how hard these girls have worked.”
The game started out as a chess match, with both teams looking for some kind of an edge.
The Lady Red Raiders (15-7-4) struck first in the 31st minute when Meg Adams put the ball in the back of the net off a free kick feed from Georgia Gamble.
Gamble then gave Decatur some breathing room when she netted a penalty kick in the 37th minute.
Despite the cries from the Fort Payne cheering section about the call, Gamble said a Fort Payne player hit the ball with her hand in the goal box area.
One Fort Payne player looked down in disgust and muttered, “Worst call ever.”
The 2-0 lead gave Decatur short-lived breathing room. Fort Payne forward Meg Wilson then scored during the 47th minute to cut the lead to 2-1.
At that point, Pline emphasized a defensive strategy, having players play back and sending in limited attackers.
Even so, Fort Payne (12-8-0) continued to pile up the shots.
In the second half, the Lady Wildcats outshot Decatur 8-2 and had several scoring chances off seven free kicks.
“I went back to a bunker defense,” Pline said. “But then I realized without an offense they could turn more players onto the attack. So I went back and asked my defense to step up and play hard.”
There were several anxious moments.
Fort Payne’s Rachel Shugart came in on goalkeeper Shannon Laughlin and had her beat, but missed the net wide right.
In addition, a Fort Payne player ran into Laughlin, forcing her out the action for about 20 seconds.
Overall, Fort Payne outshot Decatur 18-9.
“After their goal, the momentum switched their way,” said Laughlin, still holding her stomach afterward.
“They picked up the offensive intensity and got more shots than we did in the second half, but we held on.”
State quarterfinal soccer results
Class 5A girls
Decatur 2, Fort Payne 1
Athens 1, Southside-Gadsden 0
Class 1A-4A boys
Mars Hill 2, East Limestone 1
Class 5A boys
John Carroll 3, Brewer 0
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