Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.|
Decatur defender Kim Collis shows her dejection after Briarwood scored one of its five goals against the Lady Red Raiders in the Class 5A state semifinals in Huntsville on Friday afternoon. Briarwood eliminated Decatur 5-1.
Soccer season suddenly silent
Decatur girls fall in semis to defending champions
By Bradley Handwerger
HUNTSVILLE — Mike Pline knelt down in Decatur’s team bench area, surveying the Brendan O’Halloran field at John Hunt Park. He was still coaching, still shouting out directions to his players as the clock wound down on the game and the season.
None of what he said would matter, though.
Decatur’s run in the girls Class 5A state soccer playoffs is over. The Lady Red Raiders bowed out in the semifinals with a 5-1 loss at the feet of Briarwood Christian, which will play fellow Birmingham school John Carroll Catholic at 9 a.m. Saturday in the championship game. Briarwood is the defending Class 5A girls champion.
“It’s still a successful season,” Pline said. “This is a major step for us.”
Said standout junior forward Meg Adams: “For us to get here is a success in itself. Hopefully we can get back here next year, hopefully past the semifinal game.”
Before this postseason, Decatur (15-8-4) had never won a playoff match. Now the school has two in the bag, and before 14 of 21 players listed on the roster are underclassmen, the prospects for next season look healthy.
“I expect to be here next year,” Pline said. “That’s our hope, our plan.”
In a way, youth did in Decatur on Friday against the Lady Lions.
Briarwood (18-3-1) outshot Decatur 23-8 and took four more corner kicks than did the Lady Raiders. It also had four more legitimate scoring opportunities than Decatur.
Nevertheless, in the 11th minute, Decatur grabbed a 1-0 lead, and at the time, the momentum.
Decatur’s Jennifer Neill gathered a through ball and chipped it on frame. Briarwood goalkeeper Deborah Ross mishandled the shot, letting it slip though her hands.
She lunged onto the ball as it trickled across the goal line, but not before the ball passed completely over it.
“We talked today about the ebb and flow of a soccer game and to just make sure we keep our focus on what we do no matter the circumstances of the game,” Briarwood coach Ryan Lieb said.
That’s exactly what Briarwood did, and Decatur’s youth began to show. It didn’t help that almost immediately after the goal, Ellie Cole and Sally Adams left the game battling with dehydration. Adams eventually returned, but Cole did not.
Six minutes after Neill’s goal, Decatur allowed the equalizer. Briarwood’s Abbie McRary dribbled to the endline, cut back towards goal and shot.
Decatur sophomore keeper Shannon Laughlin got her knees on the ball, but couldn’t misdirect the path of it.
It wasn’t the only near-save of the day for Laughlin, who did finish with 11 saves.
“I could have grabbed a few of them, but several of our defenders were out,” Laughlin said.
In the 21st minute, Laughlin misplayed a high ball into the box. Waiting to pounce was Briarwood’s Missy Shaw, who tapped the ball into the goal for a 2-1 Lions’ lead.
Decatur gathered itself and was close to getting to halftime without letting the game slip away. But in the 35th minute, Laughlin didn’t get to a bouncing ball near the top of the 6-yard box, and Briarwood’s Rachael Jones headed the ball over her and into the goal for a 3-1 lead.
Then, a minute later, Briarwood’s Lindsey Sillers all but put the game out of reach, tucking the ball between Laughlin and the far post for a goal.
“She’s a sophomore goalkeeper. She got a lot of notoriety the past couple of days,” Pline said. “Maybe she put too much pressure on herself. She’s a top-notch goalkeeper. She’s had better days, and she’ll have better days.”
Briarwood’s Lauren Silvio added the final goal in the 65th minute.
“We had the lead and some elementary mistakes they took advantage of,” Adams said. “We broke down.”
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