Oak Mountain girls edge Spain Park by one goal for playoff win

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

NORTH SHELBY – Almost three months after their first matchup against each other to open the season on Feb. 11, the Oak Mountain and Spain Park girls soccer teams met again in the first round of the playoffs with their seasons on the line on Tuesday, April 30.

In that first matchup, the Eagles started the season on a dominant note thanks to a momentous 8-1 victory, which eventually propelled them out to a 12-0 start, but the Jaguars also turned things around and won five in a row.

And despite having lost three of its last five games, No. 6 Spain Park was set to put forth a much better effort with its season on the line against the No. 2 Eagles.

While the Jaguars put up the same goal total in the game, their defensive effort was much better throughout and gave them a chance with a 1-1 halftime tie, but a goal midway through a physical second half by Oak Mountain’s Kaitlin Maynard became the difference in a 2-1 victory.

With the victory, the Eagles advanced to the quarterfinals of the playoffs where a top-two matchup will take place between No. 1 Vestavia Hills and Oak Mountain.

Throughout the night, the Jags and Eagles battled in a physical matchup as both determined they were going to go after each other in a playoff game with their seasons on the line.

With that game plan, very few opportunities presented themselves throughout the night thanks to each team chasing down the ball and meeting with contact.

But when the chances came, the teams capitalized, and it started early in the first half on a goal by the Jaguars.

Maddie McNulty was able to eventually find a shot off an assist from Jasmine Greene, which ended in a goal and a 1-0 lead for the visitors to give them confidence that they could hang with Oak Mountain this time around.

The Eagles, however, had a quick answer. Midway through the opening period, Hallie Campbell was able to find some space and eventually powered in the equalizer to tie the game 1-1.

At the center of the physical battle throughout the night were Oak Mountain’s Emi Long and Spain Park’s Haley Greene, two of the best threats for each team.

Because of that battle, Haley Greene ended up earning two chances on free kicks, but she missed both opportunities high as the game went to halftime tied.

Early in the second, half that physical battle continued, which allowed Haley Greene to get another free kick following a yellow card on Long, but the penalty shot yet again sailed on her.

That became key, because for the remainder of the game, Oak Mountain took control of the ball and held possession for much of the period leading to several opportunities, including several rebound chances.

That eventually paid off, and close to midway through the half, the Eagles were able to get a great look on a shot from Maynard, and she capitalized by burying in the back of the net for what became the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory.

Oak Mountain didn’t let up the final 20 minutes of the game and made it hard for Spain Park to find any great opportunities, which led to the final score in a hard-fought playoff game between two rivals.

Now, going up against the Rebels, Oak Mountain will not only look to avenge a 6-3 loss in the regular season, but will look to hand them their first loss of the season to advance to the Final Four.