Chelsea soccer wins 2nd girls state championship

By MIKE EASTERLING | Special to the Reporter

HUNTSVILLE – Two ducks flying low frolicked above Field No. 1 at John Hunt Park on a windy Saturday, even touching down for a brief moment as Chelsea and Southside-Gadsden battled for the Class 6A girls state soccer championship.

It proved to be an omen..

In what was perhaps the game’s pivotal play, junior defender Maddison “Goose’’ Martin came up big for the Hornets in a 2-0 victory.

She positioned herself in front of the net as goalkeeper Sabrina Lang rushed forward to thwart an attempt on a breakaway by the Panthers’ Kelsey Patterson. She got the rebound and dribbled past Lang.

It appeared Patterson would certainly score, but Martin was there to kick the second attempt away. The play preserved a 1-0 lead, Chelsea added a late goal while playing short-handed and won its first state championship since 2012.

“That was the game-tyer,’’ Hornets coach Jonathan Hammett said. “That was the difference in the game right there because it could’ve gone a completely different way if it had gone in.’’

Martin, wearing one of the black t-shirts emblazoned with “state champions 2017’’ her parents secretly had printed prior to the tournament, said she was “ashamed’’ of a poor pass back toward Lang that allowed Patterson to intercept the ball and nearly score.

“I had to make up for my mistake,’’ Martin said. “Our goalkeeper made an amazing save. I was lucky (Patterson) hit it right at me.’’

As for her nickname, Patterson said “my father called me silly goose since I was like 5. Goose stuck.’’

Hornets sophomore midfielder Lexie Duca, who was named tournament Most Valuable Player, scored with an assist from freshman Kailey Littleford to make it 1-0 4:50 into the match.

Chelsea took that lead into the second half, and had to play one player down the final 24:15 following a red card.

The Panthers not only had a numbers advantage. A brisk wind was blowing behind them as they moved toward the south end of the field.

But Lang and the Hornets defense kept the shutout.

“That was a sticky situation,’’ Hammett said. “We went to one forward.’’

Chelsea added an insurance goal when senior midfielder Madeline Guillen scored on an assist by sophomore forward Haley Greene.

Lang saved all four shots on goal she saw for Chelsea (17-6-2). Savanna Blackwell and Alley Rubrigi combined to save 6-of-8 for Southside-Gadsden (16-6-1).

The Hornets have been eliminated from the playoffs by the eventual state champion the past three years. It was finally Chelsea’s time to win the final game of the season.

“It feels amazing to be state champs,’’ Duca said.

See more photos at www.shelbycountyphotos.com