The Meridian Star
The West Lauderdale girls soccer team's magical season came to a disappointing end Saturday, as the Knights fell 2-0 to Florence in the Class 4A state championship at Clinton High School.
“Florence is a great team,” West Lauderdale head coach Alex George said. “We had our challenges ahed of us today. We were very blessed to be here though, and it will give us a lot of experience for next year.”
Florence came out hot early, controlling the momentum and creating plenty of opportunities in the game's opening minutes. However, the Knights were able to keep the Eagles at bay thanks to strong defense and timely stops by goal keeper Kaitlyn Knuth.
After 11 minutes of scoreless play, Florence forward Lindy Tabor would finally get the Eagles on the board, unleashing a powerful kick from 35 yards out that found the top right corner to make the score 1-0.
“I was just like I have the ball, I might as well kick and and see if it goes in,” Tabor said. “I thought maybe she couldn't stop the high shot. I was just like, get a little rise on it and hope it falls.”
The score remained at 1-0 until the 58th minute when Florence midfielder Ali Sullivan took the balls across the box and kept her poise to deliver the Eagles' second goal. Sullivan, who knocked the goal in with her left foot, was essentially playing with just her left foot after injuring her right foot earlier this season.
“My foot has been bothering me for a few months and I have to get it wrapped before every game,” Sullivan said. “I can't really hit the ball with my right, so I had to finish with my left or else I would probably have to leave the game.”
Ultimately it was speed that killed the West Lauderdale on Saturday, as the Knights had a tough time adapting to both the quick Florence defenders as well as the fast-playing artificial turf at Clinton High School.
“I think at time it was tough,” George said. “We had that break away late in the game, where I think that extra speed of play might have thrown us off a little bit. I think the tempo of it might have set us back a little bit.”
West had an opportunity to score in the 67th minute, when Jami Daugherty found a break away. However, neither Daugherty's nor Jordyn Hull's put-back attempt were able to find the back of the net.
“I think it could have changed things,” George said. “2-1 would have probably got us back in their and gave us more momentum. Obviously it didn't happen. We had some looks, we just weren't able to but them in the back of the net today.”
Knuth shined bright for the Knights in the loss allowing only two goals on 29 shots.
“She is technically sound, she is athletic, and she is just a sophomore,” Massey said. “I was impressed by her. With me moving to East Central after this year, she will be somebody I recruit in a couple of years.”
With only two seniors on this year's team, West defied the expectations of many by even reaching the state title. George said he looks to build on the trip to Clinton next year and return even stronger in 2014.
“We are going to miss both of our seniors next year,” George said. “But with the youth on our side and a little taste of what it feels like, I think it is a great momentum heading into next season.”