Looking at the girls soccer postseason picture
Published 2:33 pm Tuesday, March 29, 2016
By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor
Last week we took a look at the five boys soccer teams from the county with the best chances to make a deep playoff run, and potentially bring home a title. Now, this week, we’re taking a look at the five girls teams from around the county that have the best chances to do the same thing. Let’s hit it.
1. Oak Mountain
Once again, Oak Mountain is the best girls’ soccer program in the county as well as currently the top team across the entire state. Winners of two consecutive state championships, and three of the last four, the Lady Eagles are operating on a level few programs in any sport can ever realistically hope to reach. When Oak Mountain lost to McGill-Toolen by a 2-1 final on March 5 of this year, it was the team’s first loss in almost a calendar year. Through 16 games this year, Oak Mountain holds a 14-1-1 record, and has allowed just seven goals all year while averaging just shy of four goals per game.
Sophomore Julia Pack, a contributor on Oak Mountain’s team since her eighth grade season, has scored 16 goals in 14 games and has dished out 11 assists this year as well. Pack, along with Alexandra Dunn and Hailey Whitaker, headline a fearsome Oak Mountain attack that is a threat to score at any moment. Whatever kind of list or ranking gets created about girls soccer in this county, Oak Mountain will be at the top of it until someone knocks them off when it matters most.
2. Indian Springs
The boys’ team from Indian Springs has gotten a fair amount of attention, and at 15-1-2 with a 91-20 goal differential and a No. 6 overall ranking in the state, that’s deserved. However, the girls’ team from Springs is having quite a year as well. The girls from Springs are currently 10-3-1 and are ranked as the No. 1 team in the state in 1A-3A, just like the boys, and are currently ranked as the tenth-best team in the state regardless of classification. Springs has lost to 7A Mountain Brook by two goals and 6A Northridge and Gardendale by a single goal this season, and has outscored opponents 49-5 in the their other 11 games, averaging 4.5 goals per game. Bayside and Westbrook Christian School look to be Springs’ biggest competition this year in the 1A-3A category, and the possibility is very much alive the tiny Shelby County school could sweep the state soccer titles.
Since head coach Jonathan Hammett arrived at Chelsea in 2004 the Lady Hornets have won a state title and played for another, and this year Hammett has a squad that could potentially add to the hardware collection. Currently 10-4-0, Chelsea holds the No. 2 ranking in 6A behind John Carroll Catholic. The four losses Chelsea has suffered to date have come to Oak Mountain twice, Vestavia and Hoover, potentially the best three teams in the state, and all in 7A. In the 10 games Chelsea has won, the Lady Hornets have outscored opponents by a whopping 68-2, which includes wins over Thompson, Briarwood, Northridge and James Clemens.
This Lady Hornet team is balanced, with a number of players capable of beating defenders one-on-one. Haley Greene, Maddison Martin, Madeline Guillen and Lexie Duca are a few of the Chelsea girls who have led the Lady Hornets to their current No. 2 ranking.
4. Spain Park
The Lady Jaguars started the season 11-0-0, and played 14 games before finally losing one. Now, at 13-1-1, Spain Park is the No. 5 7A team in the state, and the No. 6 team overall in the state. With six seniors on the team, this Spain Park group is a very balanced and cohesive unit, scoring at least two goals in 10 of its 15 games to date. The 13 wins Spain Park has notched this year already outstrip the win totals in each of the previous two years, and Haley Stone, Jasmine Greene, Payton Bisso and Mia Bradley are just a few of the names that have put the Lady Jaguars in this position.
Spain Park’s problem is in the simple fact it is the No. 5 team in class 7A, and the No. 6 team across the entire state. This speaks to the heavy concentration of talent in girls soccer in the 7A classification. Oak Mountain, Vestavia, Auburn and McGill-Toolen are all incredibly competitive teams, and region opponent Mountain Brook is lurking at No. 7 in the state as well. With Vestavia and Mountain Brook in the same area as Spain Park, the Lady Jaguars will have to stay focused just to get to the playoffs. But if Spain Park can fend off the Lady Spartans and clinch a playoff spot, this isn’t a team anyone will want to face in May.
The Lady Warriors are a good soccer team. At 7-6-3, they are currently the No. 8 team in the state in 7A, and No. 13 overall in the state. Four of Thompson’s losses have come by just a single goal, while five of the six have come by two goals or less. They’re good, but, like Spain Park, fall victim to geography. The Lady Warriors are in the same area as Oak Mountain and Hoover, and are in danger of not even advancing out of the area tournament. If Thompson can get into the playoffs, this team does have the firepower to make surprise people, however that is a tall task in and of itself.
Allison Singletary, Angelica Justice, Melanie Brannon and Meghan Cottingham have helped to lead this Thompson team to where it is now, but if the Lady Warriors want to make a postseason run, they are going to have to figure out a way to knock off some of the top dogs in the state early on in the playoffs.