Photo: Southside High’s Savannah Knighten (left) battles Albertville’s Daniela Reyes during the Lady Panthers 2-1 victory in the first round of the Class 6A girls state soccer playoffs on Apr. 27 at SHS. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy
Southside High shook off a subpar first half to rally past Albertville, 2-1, in the first round of the Class 6A girls state soccer playoffs on Apr. 27 at Barney Hood Stadium.
The Lady Panthers (14-1-2) outscored the Aggies 2-0 over the final 40 minutes to advance to the second round, where Southside will host Decatur on Tuesday, May 1.
“Albertville wanted it more [in the first half] and they would have beaten us if it was just a half a game,” said Southside head coach Tiffany Cargill. “I think we stepped up wanted it more in the second half. Our girls didn’t want tonight to be their last game.
“I think our best offense is building through the middle and diversify our attack,” said Cargill. “It’s not going to happen of we just boom the ball up top and expect just one person to do all the work.”
Hallie Kate Smith’s goal off a rebound just outside the goal box in the eighth minute of the second half evened the score, while Savannah Knighten’s high, looping shot from 30 yards out sailed over Albertville goalie Nayeli Jimenes and into the net for the game-winner with 4:30 remaining.
“Savannah’s got very long range, and that’s something we work on with her taking longevity with her shots,” said Cargill “She does very well with that.”
Southside had to weather a few tense moments over the final few minutes, none more nerve-wracking than Savannah Blackwell’s point-blank save off Madison Smith’s breakaway in the penalty box with about a minute and a half left.
“When Maddie had that breakaway, I honestly had the utmost faith in Savannah being able to stop it,” said Cargill. “She’s a wonderful goalkeeper and one of the most fearless individuals that I know. She’s so skilled and tactical, and everything she does is calculated. We’re very grateful to have her on the team.”
Daniela Reyes goal in the 26th minute of the first half gave Albertville (10-11-1) the initial lead.
Cargill noted that several of her players competed in the sectional track and field meet at Fort Payne earlier in the day and returned in time for the 6 p.m. soccer match.
“We’re trying to do out thing in soccer and they’re on their way to the state meet (this week in Gulf Shores). There is something about being a Southside Panther that invokes strength and honor and wanting to give your all.”