By Rubin E. Grant
If the Homewood Patriots were going to win a state championship in girls soccer, they knew they would have to go through the Chelsea Hornets.
For the past three years, the Hornets stung the Patriots in the first round of AHSAA soccer playoffs. When the teams met during the regular season this year, the Hornets downed the Patriots 4-3.
Even as they marched through the playoffs this spring, the Patriots knew the Hornets were lurking.
After Homewood routed Decatur 8-0 in the semifinals behind senior midfielder Maggie O’Hare’s three goals and Chelsea beat St. Paul’s Episcopal 8-0, the moment of truth had arrived for the Patriots.
This time, though, Homewood prevailed – finally.
The Patriots (19-4-5) rallied for a dramatic 3-2 victory to win their first- ever girls title last Saturday at the John Hunt Soccer Complex in Huntsville.
Junior Claire Touliatos scored the winning goal at 70:51, thanks to an assist from Eleanor Kyle.
“Eleanor and I both had the shot, but I had the better angle,” Touliatos said. “I told her to leave it for me, and she left it.
“That’s the way it’s been the whole year with our team chemistry. There is no personal glory. We play for the glory of God.”
Just 73 seconds earlier, Kyle, a sophomore, tied the match at 2-2 with a goal assisted by O’Hare and Marguerite Middlemas.
O’Hare scored the first goal of the game 14:34 into the match on an assist from Audrey Nabors.
Chelsea (21-3-1) tied the score at 21:20 with Kailey Littleford’s goal. The Hornets took a 2-1 lead in the second half on Morgan Bright’s goal at the 61:24 mark.
But the Patriots would not be denied; not this time.
Back and Forth
“It was a really exciting high school game, back and forth the whole time,” Homewood coach Mindy McBride said. “I’m proud of my girls. They started strong. We were determined not to let them get the upper hand early. We got a goal, and then Chelsea got a goal, and then they got a goal on a penalty kick.
“It’s a testament to our girls to come back. We’ve had tough situations throughout the whole season when we’ve been behind and with 10 or 11 minutes left, we scored two goals in two minutes.
“We’ve got nine seniors, and they stepped up. They were composed, and even (when) we were behind, they knew we could win it. They executed the game plan.”
Homewood senior goalkeeper Jada Repp earned the MVP award after registering four saves. She also had three saves in the semifinals.
“Jada had a fantastic game,” McBride said. “She made some impressive saves.”
Repp gave the credit to the defenders in front of her, especially freshman center back Lilly Lowery and freshman fullback Caroline Crimi.
“It means a lot to me to be named MVP, but I would not have been able to do it without my defenders,” Repp said. “They did so much hard work and didn’t let several balls come through.
“It feels amazing to finally win a state championship after four years of high school.”
John Carroll Falls
John Carroll Catholic is used to winning state championships, having won four of the previous five years, including three in Class 6A.
But after dropping down to Class 4A/5A this season, the Cavaliers couldn’t keep the magic going, falling 5-2 to Montgomery Academy in the semifinals last Friday and finishing 12-5-3.
The match was tied 2-2 at halftime. Montgomery Academy’s Mead Robertson scored the first goal six minutes into game. The Cavaliers came back to take a 2-1 lead on goals by Kennedi Langan and Ruby Thornton, but the Eagles tied the match at 2-2 on Hayes Jenkins’ goal.
Montgomery Academy dominated the second half with Tara Katz and Brooke Horne netting goals and the Eagles’ team getting the credit for the fifth goal.
Montgomery Academy (22-3-1) went on to beat Southside-Gadsden 2-1 to win its first Class 4A/5A title. The Eagles won the 1A/3A titles in 2018 and 2017.
Altamont Loses Heartbreaker
Westminster-Oak Mountain captured the school’s first-ever girls state soccer championship, defeating Altamont 3-2 in overtime in the Class 1A/3A final.
Junior Morgan White scored the match-ending goal in overtime at 85:51 for Westminster (17-2-1). Altamont finished 13-8-2.
Senior Tori Deen, who was selected MVP, scored the first goal for Westminster just 41 seconds into the match on an assist from Ella Davenport.
Altamont’s Mimi Davis tied the score with a goal at 18:07. White answered with a goal early in the second period on an assist from Katie Hoaglund to give Westminster a 2-1 lead.
The Knights’ Ava Muller tied the match again at 77:43 with a goal on Davis’ assist.
The two teams then played seven more minutes before White’s second goal settled the outcome.