Lady Jags win soccer title
When Annalika Steyn decided to leave Hoover and transfer across town to play soccer with her friends at Spain Park, she knew a state championship would be possible. Almost two years later, Steyn, now a sophomore, reached that goal Saturday by helping lead Spain Park to a 4-0 victory over McGill-Toolen to win the Class 6A girls’ championship at John Hunt Park.
“I expected it to happen, hopefully every season,” Steyn said.
Steyn slipped past the McGill-Toolen defense in the ninth minute to rebound a shot off keeper Elyse Williams and push it to the back of the net for the Jags’ first goal to help Spain Park extended its unbeaten streak to 21 games and win the Jaguars’ second girls’ soccer state title.
She has provided a second punch up top for the Jaguars, leaving defenses confused as to how to defend her and senior Brittany Vanderburg.
“For defenders it used to be our best defender is going to mark Brittany, now it’s our best defender is going to mark … one of them and we don’t know who’s going to mark the other one,” Spain Park head coach Jonathan Weimer said. “Those two forwards are the focal point.”
Ten minutes after Steyn scored the opening goal, sophomore Madeline Hughes found Vanderburg for Spain Park’s second goal.
Vanderburg, who will play at Ole Miss in the fall, said she’s thankful to have Steyn with her up top.
“She’s my other half up top, and it’s great having her out there, because she works so hard,” Vanderburg said.
Steyn, who was named the championship game MVP, led Spain Park with five shots, four on goal, while Vanaderburg also had four shots on target.
Spain Park added a third goal in the 35th minute by Taylor Bisso on an assist by Lakin Eddy and senior Kristen Guie scored an unassisted goal in the 55th minute to close the scoring.
McGill had a chance early in the game to tie it, but a penalty kick shot soared over the crossbar. Another opportunity came in the second half when Spain Park keeper Lauren Arnold was out of position and opened up the net for McGill’s Caroline Frangos. Frangos took one touch too many before delivering her shot, allowing time for Emily Hoffman to get in the way of the shot and deflect it toward Arnold for her second save of the day.
Spain Park finishes the year with only one loss, a 2-0 shutout by Oak Mountain in the Lakeshore Shootout final in February.
“I expected them to go far, but to only lose one game all season is such a shock to me in such a hard area. They worked hard. They trained hard,” Weimer said. “I’d have to think they’re the hardest trained team in the state, and the girls got rewarded for it today. I’m very proud of them.”
Weimer, who joined the program before Spain Park’s 2004 state championship season, became head coach this year after program starter Robert Starr was forced to step aside because he coached one of the boys players in club ball, a violation of an AHSAA rule. Star celebrated with the girls after the game and said he’ll be back on the sidelines next year. Though he’ll lose six seniors, Spain Park will bring up a talented freshman and eighth grade class next year.
“We’ve got a great sophomore class. Hopefully two years from now we’ll end up with the same sort of thing, where we’ll have a lot of younger ones coming through,” Star said. “And build consistency with a handful of freshman and sophomores every year.”