Duca sets state record to lead Hornets to Final Four

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

CHELSEA – With 10:56 left in a quarterfinal matchup against Opelika, Chelsea senior Lexie Duca pitched a pass forward to a teammate, but it was more than just a normal pass.

Duca’s pass found its way to sister Haley Duca, who buried her shot into the back of the net for an 8-0 advantage late in the game. With the Final Four already in grasp thanks to the wide margin, the goal wasn’t key in the win, but the sister-to-sister connection closed out a special moment for Lexie Duca.

Having tied the AHSAA career assist record for most assists at the high school level in the state just a few minutes earlier, Lexie broke that record by recording her 107th assist with the Chelsea Hornets in her final home game to help advance her team to the Final Four.

Up 8-0 late in the game, she wasn’t done. With that assist to her sister, she helped Haley gain her fourth goal of the night, and then with 6:56 left, she played a cross pass forward to teammate Kailey Littleford.

Littleford finished off Lexie’s 108th assist by sprinting into the box and burying another shot into the back of the net for her hat-trick goal and Chelsea’s final goal in a 9-0 victory over Opelika to advance to the Final Four in Huntsville starting Friday, May 10.

The dominant win was a welcome sight for a Hornets’ team that had struggled to convert on chances during its second-round matchup and the first half of this quarterfinal game.

Those missed opportunities piled up against Northridge in a 2-0 victory, and were aplenty again early against Opelika despite a goal from Lexie Duca on a breakaway to put the Hornets up 1-0 at the half.

But then, a switch was flipped coming out in the second half. While the team that beat Northridge 2-0 and was up 1-0 at the half against Opelika was a Final Four team, the one that showed up in the second half is a Class 6A state championship level team.

It took 3:02 of play in the half for Chelsea to find the back of the net, as Claire Guillen slotted a shot past the keeper to extend the Hornets’ lead to 2-0.

Six minutes later, Haley Duca got her first of what became a four-goal second half.

Less than four minutes after that first goal, she broke free from the defense with just the goalie to beat and with the keeper coming out to challenge her, that left the net wide open for her to easily punch in another goal.

Then the onslaught came. Over the next 10 minutes, Chelsea scored three more goals with Littleford posting her first two goals of the night and Haley Duca picking up her hat-trick goal.

Up 7-0, that’s when Lexie Duca broke the record she had tied earlier in the game on the assist to her sister, before then adding that final assist on Littleford’s hat-trick goal.

With the dominant 9-0 shutout, and specifically the 8-0 second half, Chelsea will not only go into the postseason with a 20-2-1 overall record, but as the No. 1 team in the classification looking to bring home their third state championship.