Lady Jags, Briarwood boys in soccer finals
Published 11:54 pm Friday, May 8, 2009
It’s been five seasons, but Spain Park is back in the girls’ soccer state championship game at John Hunt Park in Huntsville. After missing the playoffs in 2007, Spain Park fell short of the title game in a semifinal loss to Mountain Brook last year. Friday, the top-ranked Lady Jags downed No.2 Grissom, 3-0, to face McGill-Toolin in the championship at 11 a.m. Saturday.
“This is the one I was nervous about, but of course we have to finish the job tomorrow,” Spain Park head coach Johnathan Weimer said. “Whenever it’s No. 1 vs. No. 2 you never know where it’s going to go … Our girls have been nervous all day.”
Madeline Hughes opened the scoring with 15 minutes to play in the first half, scoring on an assist from Brittany Vanderburg. It was only her second goal of the season. Hughes struck again about 10 minutes into the second half to make it 2-0.
Vanderburg scored with eight minutes to play on a breakaway.
Weimer said it was just good to get past Grissom, a game that saw a large number of shots on both sides of the field.
“Hopefully we have a lot left in the tanks. It took a lot out of us today,” he said.
Spain Park goalkeeper Lauren Arnold made a handful of key saves for the Jags, including tipping two shots over the crossbar.
Spain Park (22-1-3) is looking for its second girls’ soccer state title after winning it all in 2004.
Briarwood Christian is the only boys’ soccer team from Shelby County that advanced to Huntsville and moved on to the championship game with a 2-1 victory over St. Paul’s.
The Lions led, 2-0, most of the game after goals from Jake Law and Justin Box. Box headed his goal into the upper corner of the net on a corner kick from Charlie Whorton. St. Paul’s goal came late in the game after Briarwood began to sub out its main players.
“I think we had pretty good command of the game from the onset,” co-head coach Andrew Brower said. We kept the ball a lot and really made St. Paul’s have to work to defend.”
The Lions (24-4) advance to meet John Carroll in the championship game for the second-consecutive season. John Carroll won the battle last year, while Briarwood beat the Cavaliers in the 2007 semifinal.
“It’s exciting that it’s the two best teams in 5A, in our opinion,” Brower said. “It’s going to be a monumental challenge for us and we’ll have to be our very, very best.”
In the Class 5A girls’ semifinal, St. Paul’s knocked off soccer juggernaut Briarwood Christian, 2-0.
“We’re in uncharted waters,” Lions head coach Ryan Leib said of not being in the title game. “This game was a microcosm of our season in terms of not getting a break and being inconsistent. We couldn’t make anything happen. Things weren’t’ clicking, and we battled that all season; some nights everything would go our way and other nights we’d lose to a team we shouldn’t.”
Briarwood dominated the possessions for the game, collecting 19 shots and holding St. Paul’s below 10 shots. But a corner kick and breakaway foul were the difference.
Victoria Ball sent a corner kick into the middle of the goal that the Lions’ defense was unable to clear before Cheley Lagg pushed it into the net for the 1-0 lead. Later, a St. Paul’s forward broke through the defense and was taken in the box to set up a penalty kick by Ball.
Briarwood finishes the year 12-9-2.