Photo: Glencoe High’s Katie Smith (2) protects the ball from Westbrook’s Hilary Tran (11) and Kylee Berndt during the Lady Warriors’ 2-1 victory in the first round of the Class 1A-3A girls state soccer playoffs last Tuesday (May 1) at Glencoe. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
A pair of Etowah County girls soccer teams fought tooth and nail over 80 minutes on May 1 in Glencoe, with Westbrook Christian finally prevailing with a 2-1 victory over the host Lady Yellow jackets in the first round of the Class 1A-3A state playoffs.
The third-ranked Lady Warriors took a 1-0 lead into halftime on Kylee Berndt’s goal off a free kick by Makenna Beard at the 14:03 mark of the first half.
The visitors made it 2-0 when Beard found the net off a free kick from about 30 yards out nine minutes into the second half.
Glencoe was primed to tie the game later in the half when the Lady Warriors were whistled for a foul in the penalty box, but Westbrook goalie Kirsi Gupta punched aside the ensuing kick from 15 yards out.
The hosts didn’t waste their next opportunity, however. A few minutes after the failed penalty kick, Kinsleigh Hamrick’s corner kick glanced off Gupta’s fingers and into the net, drawing Glencoe within a goal with 22:17 left in the game.
Daijah Hammond kept the Lady Jackets within striking distance with several over the final 20 minutes
The Lady Yellow Jackets’ best chance to send the game to overtime with a breakaway shot in the final minute, but Gupta came through with the save.
“You’ve got to give tons of credit to Coach (Craig) Smith and his team; they’re a tough team to play,” said Westbrook head coach Joel Hawbaker. “We knew when we were matched up with them (in the playoffs) that this would be a battle. I’ve been at Westbrook for five years, and the only other time we’ve had to game plan around one player was last year against Altamont in the state semifinals. So that shows you what kind of player Katie Smith is. She’s that good. “I’m especially proud of [Gupta] for how well she played in goal tonight. She made some tremendous saves.
[Hamrick and Meisi Diggs] also had a heck of a game, and their goalie made some big stops. It’s not surprising that both our goals came off set pieces, because Glencoe’s a really good defensive team. I’m just thankful that we came away with a win. Glencoe certainly made us earn it.”
Glencoe ended its season at 11-4.
“When you put two players on one kid like they did with Katie tonight, you can take her out of her game,” said Craig Smith. “Westbrook is No. 3 in the state for a reason, and Joel has a great team this year. I’m just proud of the way my girls played tonight. To win the area [title] and compete like we just did in our house in front of that kind of crowd, you just don’t see that in girls soccer, especially in a 3A school. We’re graduating a couple of key players and we’ll still be very young next year, but we’ll be okay.”
Westbrook lost to West Morgan, 2-1, in a second-round game last Saturday (May 5) in Rainbow City. The Lady Warriors’ lone goal came on Berndt’s penalty kick in the 47th minute.