Briarwood falls in Final Four PK loss to Montgomery Academy

Published 2:29 pm Thursday, May 11, 2023

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

HUNTSVILLE – It wasn’t the ending the Briarwood Lions hoped for at Huntsville’s John Hunt Park on Thursday, May 11, but it didn’t deflect from the historic run the team put together.

Walking off the field heartbroken following a 2-1 penalty-kick loss (4-2), emotions overcame the players, but the emotions hit them hard because of all of the effort that was put into the special run.

Entering the game as the No. 3 team in Class 6A, Briarwood made it to the Final Four for the first time in school history at the 6A level, and they looked the part for the entirety of the game.

In the opening half, the two teams came out and settled in for a defensive battle, both both goalkeepers had to be a part of that battle as well.

Chances were limited on each side, but both teams got good looks when they did get opportunities.

The Lions got good saves early from keeper Lindsey Weigant, while Briarwood then got two opportunities on crosses.

The two traded two more chances on crosses in the box with about nine minutes remaining in the first half, but neither ended in a goal.

Then, over the final three minutes, the action started to pick up.

Briarwood controlled the ball for much of that and missed one shot just wide right with 3:20 remaining in the half with a hard cross wind blowing.

The Lions then got the best look of the half in the final 20 seconds of the opening period, getting back into the box before a shot was taken and ricocheted off the right post before a rebound shot sailed high to send the game into the half in a 0-0 tie.

That led into a thrilling second half that saw the Lions come out and control the ball for the first 15 minutes of action, which ultimately led to the first goal of the game.

The ball eventually found its way to Taylor Leib, who drilled a shot from the top of the arch that was a low screeching shot that eventually beat the keeper into the right side of the net for a 1-0 lead with 28 minutes to play.

Montgomery Academy, however, started to regain some pressure from there.

With consistent pressure, the Eagles found the equalizer with 21:36 to play off a corner kick that was deflected out of a crowded box and into the back of the net.

Both teams traded chances over the next 12 minutes, but it was the Lions who had the best looks the rest of the way.

With 14 minutes left, the Lions earned several chances over the remainder of the game, including a free kick from 25 yards out that just missed and a Leib shot with 30 seconds left that was similar to her first goal but ended in a save this time around.

That ultimately led into overtime, which came and went without a goal in either of the two periods, leading to penalty kicks to decide who would play for the championship.

Montgomery Academy’s keeper, however, stepped up in a big spot for the Eagles.

Falling to her left, she reached up and narrowly batted down the first shot and then saved the second shot easily to allow her team to take a 2-0 lead.

Briarwood responded with two goals on its next two kicks from Erin Gilbert and Bradford Latta, while Weigant made a big save to keep the Lions in it.

Trailing 3-2 through four rounds, however, Montgomery Academy stepped up and made the next shot to end it.

Briarwood finished the season 17-4-1 overall, losing all four games by one goal or in PKs.

The Lions will lose six seniors off this year’s team who will go down as one of the best senior classes in school history for their efforts in creating a historic run at the 6A level.