The Meridian Star
The West Lauderdale boys soccer team didn't need any extra motivation when suiting up to play St. Stanislaus in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs Tuesday night.
The Rock-a-Chaws dismantled the Knights three years ago in the 4A state finals, beating West Lauderdale 5-0. Tuesday, the Knights avenged their title loss, battling back from an 0-2 deficit to beat St. Stanislaus 5-3.
“That win was huge,” West head coach Bryan Miley said. “That was a bit of a motivation for us. We haven't won a first-round playoff game in two years, we've had kind of a monkey on our backs. It was good to get both of those things out of the way.”
The road to redemption was not easy for the Knights. West Lauderdale found itself in an early hole when the Rock-A-Chaws got on the board first in the 15th minute. St. Stanislaus scored again 14 minutes later, sending the home crowd into a panic.
“When we got down 2-0, we had all these senior-day festivities, and I think we came out tight,” Miley said. “We weren't playing our game, and we weren't doing the things we needed to do.”
The Knights were able to get plenty of shots on goal. However, the Stanislaus keeper was able to snuff out opportunities early on in the game, leaving Miley and the Knights waiting for a goal to slip through ad spark the team.
“I have been with this group for a long time, and I didn't know,” Miley said. “I really didn't know how we were going to react. Our motto this year is to finish, and I told them to keep fighting and don't ever give up, and they didn't.”
The Knights received their first goal when midfielder Chris Mallette beat the keeper from top of the box in the 33rd minute to trim the lead to 2-1 right before the half.
After heading into the break down 2-1, the Knights would respond quickly in the second half, scoring on a goal by midfielder Lyle Daughtery, who drove the ball down the sideline before sneaking it inside the right post and past the St. Stanislaus keeper early in the second half.
“We panicked,” West Lauderdale forward Tyler Germany said. “We were nervous, but we scored late in the first half and early in the second half. That's when we really started to turn it around.”
From there the Knights’ captain took over. Germany scored the game's next three goals, connecting on a corner kick before knocking in two more goals in the box to complete the hat trick give the Knights a 5-2 lead.
“It was the team really,” Germany said. “We had to come back from those two goals down. It was a rough start, but I'm glad we were able to finish it off in the second half.”
West travels to Laurel on Saturday in Round 2.
“We got to keep our momentum,” Germany said. “We have to stay with it and not let up a minute in any game.”
West Lauderdale 12
Poplarville girls 1
West Lauderdale head coach Alex George knew his team would come to play Tuesday night against Poplarville in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs.
However, not even George could predict the show his girls would put on, as the Knights blew past the Hornets 12-1 on senior night at West Lauderdale.
“It was a little bit of a shocker, but hey we will take it,” George said. “You never know what to expect in the first round, but we were stringing it together really nice tonight.”
The Knights received their first goal of the game from sophomore Lacy Billings who was able to muscle the ball through the keepers arms and into the net early in the first half.
The Knights would add to their lead quickly, as Hannah Byrd powered home a shot from the top of the box in the 13th minute to give West Lauderdale a commanding 2-0 lead.
Taylor Gray capitalized on a West corner kick, finding the ball in the box and converting on an easy opportunity in the 18th minute, as the Knights onslaught began.
The Knights would head into the half leading Poplarville 5-0 at the break and would continue to pour on the goals in the second half. Key to West's dominance in the game was the Knight's ability to control the game through efficient passing allowing them to keep possession.
“These girls have been playing together since seventh grade,” George said. “The chemistry factor is something we have been stressing in our training sessions. I think now we are reaping the benefits of it.”
Jordyn Hull led the Knights on the night with two goals while also contributing with an assist. Jami Daugherty also had two goals on the night.
West will Northeast Jones on Saturday for round two. Northeast Jones eliminated the Knights from the playoffs in the first round last season.
“I just look forward to giving them a rematch,” Hull said. “I want to play them as well as we can and do everything possible to win.”