By Rubin E. Grant
Even though it had been only two years since they had won a soccer championship, the John Carroll Catholic Cavaliers felt the wait had been a lot longer.
John Carroll ended their somewhat brief absence without the state championship blue trophy last Saturday when they beat Gardendale 2-0 to claim the girls Class 6A crown in the 28th Alabama High School Athletic Association Soccer Championships at Huntsville’s John Hunt Soccer Complex.
The championship is John Carroll’s fourth in the past five years and fifth overall.
“This means so much more than when we won it as freshmen and sophomores,” senior midfielder and co-captain Mary Grace Farr said. “It’s an amazing feeling, almost like we’d forgotten what it felt (like). It’s blown everything we expected out of the water.”
Senior center back Carley Horner, the other co-captain, was just as euphoric.
“I’m so happy to take the title and restore it back where we feel it belongs,” Horner said.
Before the season, the Cavaliers put up a photo in their school locker room of Chelsea celebrating its 2017 Class 6A state title. It provided motivation because Chelsea eliminated John Carroll in quarterfinals last year, ending the Cavaliers’ streak of three consecutive state champion- ships.
“That fueled our fire,” Farr said. “We went all out this season.”
The top-ranked Cavaliers got some sweet revenge, defeating Chelsea 4-0 in the quarterfinals to earn their trip to Huntsville for the Final Four.
In the semifinals, John Carroll beat Northview 4-0 behind junior Gabby Bernal’s two goals. Lauren Hooten and Kennedi Langan scored the other goals. The Cavaliers’ defense did not allow the Cougars’ a single shot on goal.
The final was a rematch of a regular-season meeting in which John Carroll beat Gardendale 4-0. But the Cavaliers were not overconfident.
“When we saw we were going to play Gardendale, we knew we were never one to go in to a game nonchalantly,” Farr said. “We came out playing our game.”
John Carroll (21-3-1) limited Gardendale (14-6-1) to only one shot and stayed on the offensive the entire match, taking 22 shots overall and 12 on goal.
Bernal, the finals MVP, gave John Carroll (21-3-1) the lead with a goal at 25:10 in the first half. Claire Davies scored the other goal eight minutes later as the Cavs took a 2-0 lead in at halftime and then preserved it the rest of the game.
“It’s fantastic to win again,” John Carroll coach Robert Crawford said. “I’ve got a great group of girls who worked so hard all year.
“Before the season, we did a thing called hold the rope and asked each of them who they were going to trust. We didn’t have any discord all season. They cared for one another and trusted one another.” ❖