Chelsea girls shut out Northridge to advance to quarterfinals

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

CHELSEA – After a scoreless first half featuring 11 solid scoring chances for the No. 1 Chelsea Hornets went for naught, they responded in a big way with two goals in the first eight minutes of the second half to take down No. 9 Northridge 2-0 to advance to the quarterfinal round of the playoffs.

The Hornets could have just as easily won the game with five or more goals with the number of great looks they got, but in the playoffs, a win is a win.

In the first 27 minutes of the game, both teams got great shots on goal, but each keeper was able to make a great save. With 25 minutes remaining in the half, Northridge’s keeper made a fantastic save on a shot near the goal, which became a trend for the first half.

That was followed shortly after by an equally impressive save by Chelsea’s Mackenzie Titus, who came out to meet the attacker with the ball in a one-on-one situation to keep the game scoreless.

The final 23 minutes of the opening period were all Chelsea, but so many close opportunities went awry.

Chelsea got two corner kicks with close to 16 minutes left in the half, before then getting two great shots on goal from 25 yards out that sailed just over the cross bar.

While the Hornets were getting frustrated with no shots finding the back of the net, they knew their continued pressure important, which led to several more attacks in the final 11 minutes of the period.

During that span, Chelsea had several shots right in front of the goal, but couldn’t convert.

With 10:47 remaining in the half, Haley Duca sprinted up field and eventually centered squarely in the box for sister Lexie Duca, but the shot was saved on a solid shot.

Just a few seconds later, Kailey Littleford drove into the far right side of the box and centered another pass, but yet again, Northridge’s keeper made a sprawled out, fully-extended save to prevent the goal.

That was followed by two more great looks from Haley Duca, who got a rebound on a shot from 10 yards away, but sent the shot high of the cross bar with the keeper laying on the ground in front of her. She then pushed the ball up the right sideline in a full on sprint before finding an opening to shot toward the far post, but the ball ended up hitting the post and ricocheting away.

Chelsea also got a couple of corner kicks and a one-on-one situation in that time span, but never could convert in the first half, leading to a 0-0 tie at the break.

With the halftime break came the chance for the Hornets to not necessarily adjust to anything, but get their heads right after seeing so many opportunities go by the way side.

That fresh train of thought quickly paid off in the second half. Knowing they were getting all of the chances offensively, the Hornets still had plenty of confidence and looked much more calm and less frustrated early in the period.

It took less than a minute for offensive star Kailey Littleford to score after firing a shot that deflected off the keeper and into the net for a 1-0 advantage.

A few minutes later, Littleford was on the assisting end of the goal after she pushed the ball up the right side of the field before getting to the edge of the box and centering a pass to Haley Duca deep in the middle of the box for an easy goal to put the Hornets on top 2-0 with 32:47 to play.

The rest of the night saw Chelsea play more defense with offensive chances sprinkled in, but another great save from Titus was the bulk of the excitement for the remainder of the game, as the Hornets picked up the 2-0 victory.

Chelsea will now host Opelika on Friday at 5 p.m. with a win advancing the Hornets to the Final Four in Huntsville.