Defending champ Spain Park takes down No. 1 Vestavia to open playoffs

Published 10:51 pm Tuesday, May 2, 2023

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

VESTAVIA HILLS – For the second year in a row, the Spain Park Jaguars entered the postseason with a matchup against the top-ranked team in Class 7A on Tuesday, May 2, and for the second year in a row, they walked away victorious.

Last year, they beat Oak Mountain 1-0 on the road in the opening round on the way to a state championship, and this year, an even bigger performance against No. 1 Vestavia Hills in a 3-1 victory.

The Jaguars got two goals from Kayden Sheats in the win, while Lottie Pound added a goal.

Heading into the matchup, Spain Park was 13-3-2 on the season, but one of those three losses came in a 6-2 game against the Rebels back on March 4.

It was evident, however, that this time around was going to be a different outcome early on when both defenses came out ready to set the tone.

The strong play from both on that end of the field led to a 0-0 tie at the half and a thrilling battle with both facing elimination.

Within the first five minutes of the second half, Vestavia Hills was able to strike first and take a 1-0 lead.

That put Spain Park in the position of needing to score two goals against a team that had given up one or less in 10 consecutive games and all but two of their 20 games on the season.

But the Jags were up for the challenge against the state’s top team.

With their season on the line, Sheats found the equalizer three minutes after Vestavia had taken the lead.

Then, six minutes later, Pound got in on the action with the go-ahead goal to put Spain Park in front 2-1.

From there, the Jags went back to the defensive effort that was so effective in the first half and held the Rebels in check.

Then, with Vestavia looking for the late goal to even the score, Sheats squashed their hope with her second goal of the night in the final minute of the game to cement the two-goal victory for the Jaguars.

Spain Park finished the second half with three unanswered after falling behind 1-0 with the team’s season on the line.

The Jaguars will now get a third matchup with area foe Oak Mountain in a battle of No. 2 vs. No. 3 later this week to determine who will advance to the Class 7A Final Four. The two split their regular season matchups, but goal differential gave the Eagles the area championship and home-field advantage in the matchup.