Pearl ends VHS’ shot at playoffs|[01/10/08]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 10, 2008

PEARL — It had been coming for a while.

With a struggling offense and a lack of defensive intensity throughout the season, along with a pair of early division losses, it was almost inevitable that the Vicksburg Missy Gators would be eliminated from playoff contention long before the regular season ended.

They needed to win by three goals Tuesday at Pearl to stay alive for one of two postseason berths in Division 4-4A, and got neither three goals nor a win. Pearl’s LaQuita Brown had a goal and an assist, Macey Lee and Connor Mullins each scored a goal, and the Lady Pirates beat Vicksburg 3-0.

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Brianna Blackwell made seven saves to earn the shutout for Pearl (11-7-2, 2-1 Division 4-4A), while Kelli Brewer stopped nine shots for Vicksburg (3-11-3, 0-3).

The loss ensured that Vicksburg will miss the postseason for just the second time since girls soccer became a championship sport in Mississippi in 1996. Vicksburg has won five state titles in that span, and made the postseason each season since 1999-2000.

“I’m disappointed. The competition has gotten better and we haven’t, and our talent pool is dwindling. This is not college, where you can go out and recruit players,” Vicksburg coach Kevin Manton said before adding of his team’s Tuesday effort, “We had no passion, no fire, no fight. This was nowhere near where we needed to be. This meant life or death for this season, and we died.”

Vicksburg showed some signs of life for a while. Brown’s goal off an assist from Casey Lyle at the 14-minute mark of the first half put Pearl ahead 1-0, but the score stayed there until midway through the second. In the 40 minutes between goals, the Missy Gators sustained some offensive pressure and had several scoring chances.

None were converted, though, and Lee’s goal off an assist from Taylor Smith 18 minutes and 30 seconds into the second half seemed to suck the life out of Vicksburg. After taking four shots on goal in the first 17 minutes of the second half, VHS had only one the rest of the game.

Mullins added Pearl’s third goal with 1:30 left to ice it.

“When you don’t score, you get dejected,” Manton said of his team’s effort down the stretch. “Give their keeper and their team credit. They fought through whatever we had for them.”

(B) Pearl 3, Vicksburg 0

The Vicksburg Gators were oh-so-close to scoring several times on Tuesday, but always seemed a half-step away. Pearl had no such problems.

Michael Skaggs, Thomas Moore and Lorenzo Spann all had one goal, and Pearl wrapped up the Division 4-4A tile with its shutout of Vicksburg (5-10, 1-2). Vicksburg can still wrap up a playoff spot by beating Ridgeland at home on Jan. 22, and running the table against Callaway, Lanier and Forest Hill later this month.

Pearl (10-6, 3-0) scored less than five minutes into the game. Dillon Walker got loose in the seam and left a nice drop pass for Skaggs, who beat VHS keeper Bowen Woodson for a 1-0 lead.

Vicksburg spent the next 75 minutes narrowly missing scoring chances. Perry Tolliver was stopped on three separate breakaways, and the Gators rushed shots when they needed patience, or waited too long when they needed to press.

Pearl finally put the game out of reach with just under 11 minutes to play. Moore scored to make it 2-0, and Spann added the final goal five minutes later.