By Rubin E. Grant
Listen to the stories of any fishermen or hunter and inevitably you will hear about the one that got away.
The John Carroll Catholic girls soccer team can talk about something similar.
After winning three consecutive state championships, one in Class 5A in 2014 and two in Class 6A in 2015 and 2016, the Cavaliers’ streak came to a screeching halt in 2017 when they were eliminated by eventual champion Chelsea in the Class 6A quarterfinals.
John Carroll lost on penalty kicks 3-2 (5-4), making the setback even more disheartening.
“As freshmen and sophomores, we won state both years,” said Mary Grace Farr, a senior midfielder this season. “We went in with the mind- set that we would win state again. I wouldn’t say we were overconfident, but we expected to win. It was a wake-up call when we didn’t. I felt really bad because half of our team were seniors.”
Senior center back Carley Horner said the Cavaliers treated the match against Chelsea as almost a foregone conclusion.
“We didn’t realize how critical every play was,” Horner said. “We kind of took it for granted.”
With their championship run over, the Cavaliers are not taking anything for granted this season. They entered this week with a 15-3- 1 record and ranked No. 1 in Class 6A.
Farr and Horner, the team captains, are among six seniors leading the Cavaliers’ quest to reclaim the state title trophy. The others are left back Amanda Hall, forwards Gabby Bernal and Claire Davies, and goalkeeper Song Bowers.
“All six seniors have been an integral part of our program,” John Carroll coach Rob Crawford said. “They are very self-motivated. They get together as a team, set goals and do a lot of team bonding stuff, bringing the younger kids along. It makes my job easy.”
Hall, Bernal and Davies lead the team in goals scored, Farr leads the team in assists, Horner is a leading defender, and Bowers has recorded more than 50 saves.
During the course of this season, the Cavaliers have won the Island Cup tournament in Gulf Shores and the Shamrock Invitational in Cullman.
“This season has been so much fun,” said Farr, who is headed to Furman to play collegiate soccer. “We’ve got the best team chemistry we’ve ever had and to be with the same girls for the last four years is really beautiful. We’re all so close.”
John Carroll will visit Homewood at 5 p.m. Thursday in a crucial Class 6A, Area 8 showdown. The Patriots handed the Cavaliers a 3-2 setback on Feb. 27 at John Carroll in their first meeting. The game will determine the area champion.
The postseason begins April 26 with sub-state. The Cavaliers have their sights clearly set on the state tournament May 10-12 in Huntsville.
“We’re aware of our capabilities,” Horner said. “We’re getting the mentality where we’re thinking we can go all the way.
“As much as it hurt last year when we lost to Chelsea, if we had to lose that was one to lose, because if we win this one it means we’ll go out as winners our senior year.” ❖