By Jamie Wachter / Sports Editor
The Meridian Star
Even in winning the MAIS Division II state championship last season, the Lamar girls soccer team had a lesson to learn.
The Raiders showed just how good of students they are Saturday, as they repeated as state champions with an 8-0 win against rival Laurel Christian. Last season, it took a shootout for Lamar to tame the Lions.
“I told the girls at halftime that we're in the same situation we were last year, we were up and we just can't give up,” Lamar coach Mike Crowe said. “We had to keep playing hard, and not let up and keep the pressure on.
“They were doing their jobs to make sure we didn't need that again. We didn't want to get back in that situation again. That's nerve-wracking right there. I'm losing enough hair already, I don't need to lose anymore.”
For awhile, it looked like another championship thriller between the two division foes was about to unwind Saturday afternoon. The Raiders got a goal early from Anna Arrington, and then despite a host of scoring opportunities, they couldn't break through. However, senior star Olivia Mabry connected late in the first half to give Lamar a little breathing room.
In all the Raiders took 19 shots in the first half as they led 2-0.
“Laurel has a great team and they always play us a tough game and that first half it looked like we were going to be right back there in the middle of it again,” Crowe said.
The second half, though, was a whole different story.
Using the same attacking offensive philosophy, the Raiders racked up 18 more shots. This time, though, Lamar was much better at converting, much to their coach's pleasure.
“We had to start finishing our shots, we were having trouble with finishing,” he said. “Thankfully, we finished some shots today.
“The second half things started to open up and our girls started to play a little faster and a little stronger.”
In the the second stanza, Mabry netted two more goals while Leah Thompson, Rachel Lee, Madeleine Hodge and Morgan McDonald all scored as well.
That flurry of goal-scoring activity overshadowed another stellar performance by the Raiders' defense. In blitzing through the playoffs, Lamar didn't allow a goal. That follows Crowe's philosophy.
“Defense has been strong all year and like I tell the girls, 'It's not all about who is scoring,'” he said. “If you prevent the other team from scoring, all the other things will start to take care of themselves. We've got such a strong group of defenders back there.”
And it certainly worked. Which is nothing new. Playing in their fourth straight state championship game – all against Laurel Christian – Lamar captured its third crown in that span. Now the Raiders are just hoping to continue adding to the impressive run.
“I think we're headed in the right direction,” Crowe said. “But, now this is in the past and we have to look at what we've got coming up. Hopefully we can keep up the good work.”