‘Icing on the cake’: Spain Park closes out special season with State Championship
Published 1:32 pm Saturday, May 14, 2022
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor
HUNTSVILLE – Less than 24 hours after a miraculous final-second win against rival Vestavia Hills, the Spain Park Jaguars left no chance for a second miracle in a row in the Class 7A State Championship game.
This time around, the Jaguars scored two first-half goals and two more in the second half to pull away from Fairhope and claim the school’s fifth state championship.
“It’s icing on the cake. We worked the entire season for this and just to be here right now, it’s so special,” said MVP Tatum Ahlemeyer after the 4-0 shutout. “This team is so special. There is so much love in this group. I’m forever thankful because I know Jesus is the source of all that love. It’s a true gift to be here and be with this team.”
Ahlemeyer scored both goals in the first half for the Jags to give them some early breathing room, and that became more than enough with a defense that only allowed two shots the entire game.
After just missing three good looks within the first 10 minutes, Ahlemeyer capitalized on a wide-open shot. Receiving a perfect play in to the box from Addy Soehn, she beat the goalie to the ball and fired it right by her into the back of the net.
That put Spain Park on top 1-0 with 21:26 to play in the opening half.
Then, less than 10 minutes later, the duo connected again.
Earning a corner kick, Soehn once again played the ball in and curved it perfectly toward the back post where Ahelmeyer leapt in the air and headed it home for a 2-0 advantage with 12:55 left in the half.
With control of the ball the rest of the half, the Jags threatened to extend the lead, but ultimately took the 2-0 lead into the half.
In the second half, it was more of the same.
It took less than nine minutes for the Jags to add to the lead when Maddie Davis scored with 31:15 left in the game.
Then, nine minutes later, Marybeth O’Bryant, the hero of Friday’s game, got in on the action with a goal to give Spain Park a 4-0 advantage with 22:15 to play.
From there, the Jags utilized their defense to prevent any late heroics from Fairhope.
“They have done a good job as the season has gone on,” Starr said of the defense. “Early on in the season, we were giving up some terrible goals. We made some adjustments, made some tweaks, and they just got better as a group. I think it all hit at the right time and led to today.”
With that, the Jags were able to claim the team’s first championship as a Class 7A team, the first since winning their last of three straight in 2011 and the fifth overall in school history.
“They’ve been working at it all season long,” head coach Robert Starr said. “It was a culmination of the last 2-3 weeks. They’ve had to go through Oak Mountain, go through Vestavia, go through Auburn; they’ve had a tough few weeks for sure. They just kind of put it all together today. You get this far, you mine as well make sure you get it done.”
Coming off the final-second win a day earlier that saw O’Bryant score on a lengthy shot that bounced over the keeper’s head with four seconds left, the Jags remained focus on the overall goal despite the emotional rollercoaster.
“Yesterday, that was definitely a chaotic game. I am just proud of my group for battling the entire time,” Ahelmeyer said. “I feel like that really characterizes the season for us. It’s been a battle. We’ve had lots of ups and downs. Last night, in our hotel, we were just together. It really shows on the field how much love there is in this group and that togetherness. For us, this has been a goal for all season. After yesterday, we were like, ‘The job’s not done yet.’ That helped us stay focused for sure.”
As far as this group being able to bring a championship back to Spain Park, Starr said it couldn’t have happened to a nicer group.
“It’s just a great group of girls,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be here for all of our championships, but we talked about it during the season, ‘Where does this team stand in terms of how did they matchup with the rest of them?’ And it is certainly the nicest bunch of girls that you could ever be around, which is just amazing. I’ve been here, done that; so it was just great to watch them have this experience.”
In addition to the goals from Ahlemeyer, she had one assist, while O’Bryant also added one assist to her one goal. Soehn finished with two assists, while Davis had her one goal. Lillian Gourley closed out a special season by making one save on two shots faced.