Defending champion Spain Park back in title game

Published 7:20 pm Friday, May 7, 2010

The Daphne High School girls’ soccer team learned the same lesson countless other teams discovered during the Spain Park Jaguars run to the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 6A Final Four.

Spain Park junior forward Annalika Steyn is a dangerous weapon for the Jaguars in a free-kick or penalty-kick situation.

Steyn netted a free kick and a penalty kick in the Jaguars’ 5-2 win over Daphne in the Class 6A semifinals May 7 at John Hunt Park in Huntsville.

Spain Park will face Grissom in a rematch of a Final Four contest during the Jaguars’ run to the Class 6A title in 2009 in the championship game May 8 at 11 a.m.

“(Steyn) is such a powerful player,” said Spain Park coach Robert Starr. “It’s nice for other teams to have to deal with her.”

Steyn sparked a run of five unanswered goals for the Jaguars to erase an early 1-0 deficit.

Her unassisted goal on a free kick after a Daphne foul midway through the first half tied the game at 1-1.

Spain Park (22-4-2) scored four goals in the second half to seal the win. Steyn gave the Jags a 2-1 lead with her penalty kick at the 33:41 mark in the second half following a Daphne foul. Freshman forward Simone Charley added a goal as Steyn centered the ball in front of the net for her with 24:47 remaining in the game.

Charley added an unassisted goal less than two minutes later. Alex Little capped the scoring for Spain Park with her goal with 18:04 left in the contest.

The semifinal match was a physical battle with a total of seven yellow cards, including five issued to Daphne, and a red card.

Steyn said the Jags had to change their game plan against the Trojans.

“We definitely played a different style,” Steyn said. “We had to be able to adapt. In the second half, it was so much easier.”

Starr said Spain Park’s difficult regular season schedule prepared his team for the semifinal match.

“With the schedule we play, we’re a little bit battle tested,” Starr said. “We’ve been here and done that.”

Starr said the Jags will have to play at a high level to defeat Grissom and capture a second-straight Class 6A title.

“We enjoy playing them,” Starr said. “We like playing teams that play soccer.”