DECATUR — Newton County keeper Olivia Clark showed why she’s considered one of the best in the state at her position.
Clark, an East Central Community College signee, tallied 10 saves for Newton County in a key Region 4-4A matchup against West Lauderdale’s high-powered offense. She and her team’s back line proved the difference in the Lady Knights’ 1-0 win, when a lesser goalie would have allowed several more of West Lauderdale’s shots on goal to find the net.
West Lauderdale (16-1-3, 7-0), the home team, moved the game from its regular field — wet due to recent rain — to East Central Community College in order to play on the Warriors’ turf field, as its the same type of playing surface on which they would compete in a state title game berth. Southern Miss commit Alice Williamson’s goal in the 72nd minute was the lone score of the night, and West Lauderdale head coach Alex George said playing against a keeper like Clark would be good preparation for the postseason.
“Their keeper is phenomenal,” George said. “She’s top-notch. That’s probably one of the best keepers we’ve played against, and I can’t say enough about the kind of game she played tonight. I think the expectation is that you score four or five goals, but when it comes down to playoff games, you just want to score a goal.”
Lady Cougars head coach Zac Foreman said he’s running out of words to describe Clark, who consistently impresses him every time his team takes the field.
“Honestly, I’m kind of speechless,” Foreman said. “As a goalkeeper, she does everything extremely well. She’s our anchor in the back, so having her back there is special, and I’m going to hate to have her leave (after this season).”
The game remained scoreless in the first half, though West Lauderdale constantly pressured Newton County’s defense throughout the first 40 minutes. It was more of the same in the second half before Williamson found the back of the net on a corner kick with eight minutes remaining in the game.
Foreman said limiting the Lady Knights to just one goal wasn’t so much due to a change in philosophy as much as it was his players responding well to the challenge.”
“Honestly, we didn’t change anything, we just played our game,” Foreman said. “All the credit goes to the girls. They played at a high level of intensity, and it was a great team effort.”
West Lauderdale, having already secured the Region 4-4A crown, returns home Tuesday to host Northeast Lauderdale for senior night before the postseason begins Jan. 28.
“Turf is ultimately what we want to play on as much as we can, so I’m glad we got the opportunity to come over here, and I’m glad East Central let us come over here and host a game,” George said. “Our field is really, really wet, and we didn’t want the girls to get hurt. We’re all hopefully injury-free, and we’re ready to get done with the last district game Tuesday and send our seniors out that night and then concentrate on that first round.”
Newton County (12-6, 5-2) hosts Choctaw Central on Tuesday.