Chelsea girls advance to Class 6A State Championship game

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

HUTSVILLE – For the second time in three years, the Chelsea Hornets girls soccer team is headed to the Class 6A state championship game looking to bring home a title after a dominant semifinal victory of 8-0 against St. Paul’s on Friday, May 10, at Huntsville’s John Hunt Park.

The Hornets got hat tricks from both Kailey Littleford and Haley Duca, and also two goals from Claire Guillen to take down the Saints with ease to earn a berth in the title game on Saturday, May 11, at 10 a.m. against rival Homewood.

Also impressive, yet again, for Chelsea was the stellar play of the backline. While the offense has done a good job of controlling the ball to keep the ball out of the defensive zone throughout the playoffs, so has the backline when the ball gets to them.

To this point in the postseason, the Hornets have shutout three different opponents with finals of 10-0 against Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa, 2-0 against Northridge, 9-0 against Opelika and 8-0 against St. Paul’s.

The first four of those matchups set up a confident Chelsea team heading into the Final Four, especially after a dominant second half against Northridge, which helped the Hornets early in their semifinal game.

While they missed some opportunities early in the postseason, Chelsea came out on fire to start the Final Four, and took advantage of a turning point early in the game.

The Hornets struck first when Littleford got the team off and rolling in the first two minutes of the game. She took a cross pass from Guillen deep in the box, and punched the first goal of the game through just 1:49 in.

A little more than 10 minutes later, it looked as if the St. Paul’s had answered with an equalizer, but the goal was eventually waved off due to an offside call.

Instead of a tie game, the Hornets still found themselves up 1-0 and ready to capitalize on St. Paul’s misfortune.

Over the next four minutes, Claire Guillen and Haley Duca both scored on back-to-back goals to quickly turn what could have been a 1-1 game into a 3-0 game, which put the Saints deep in a hole.

That’s when the Hornets figured out they could continue putting on the pressure to pull away.

Six minutes later, Littleford drove into the box and fired a shot that was blocked by the keeper, but the rebound trickled right back to her and on the second attempt, Littleford easily slid the shot across the line for a 4-0 advantage with 15:07 left in the half.

Chelsea continued to keep the pressure on St. Paul’s, which led to another opportunity for Littleford.

Again, she found some open space deep in the box, and went far post with a roller that St. Paul’s keeper had no shot to save, as Littleford picked up the hat trick with 6:23 left in the half to put the Hornets on top 5-0.

Coming out of the halftime break, Littleford found herself with another chance after pushing the ball up the field looking for goal number four, but instead, she unselfishly slipped a pass to Duca, who took advantage and punched through her second goal of the game.

That connection also helped Duca reach the hat-trick mark, as three minutes later to the second, she rocketed a shot from 25 yards out that buried into the back of the net to put Chelsea on top 7-0 with 30:20 remaining.

Just a couple of minutes later, Guillen, in almost identical fashion, found the same opening Duca had from 25 yards out. She turned, set her feet and fired another rocket toward the goal, that the keeper barely had time to see, as Guillen powered through the eighth and final goal of the game for the Hornets.

With the win, Chelsea will now look to bring home its third state championship since 2012 and second in the last three years when they take on Homewood tomorrow.

Earlier this season on March 7, the Hornets beat Homewood 4-3, but these two teams always end up in tough battles, especially in the postseason.

While Chelsea has the experience of winning a title recently, Homewood will have the motivation to bring home its first in school history.

Photos available at Shelbycountyphotos.com.