St. Al defense has seven shutouts in 11 games heading into playoffs

Published 11:07 am Monday, October 5, 2015

As they talk about their job, it’s clear there’s a little friendly professional jealousy between the members of St. Aloysius’ defense and their offense.

The latter gets to score goals and grab headlines. The former largely toils in anonymity, often providing only the round-shaped number to the right of their teammates’ impressive totals in the box score.

The moment quickly passes, however, and is replaced by pride in a job they’ve done very, very well.

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The Lady Flashes have allowed a total of five goals in 11 games this season. They have seven shutouts. They’re also a favorite to win the MAIS girls Class AAA championship when the playoffs get under way Tuesday. St. Al will host Kirk Academy in a first-round game Tuesday at 4 p.m. at Balzli Field.

“We keep it out of the back and expect the offense to score goals,” senior defender Shelby Bottin said. “The offense expects us to keep it out and we expect them to score.”

Bottin is joined by fellow senior Catherine Smith, junior London Varner and freshman Brantlee Richards on the back line. Samantha Kelly and Cass Hudson share the goal keeping duties, but rarely need to do more than keep a few dribblers out of the net.

In a 10-0 win over Indianola Academy last week that clinched the District 1-AAA championship, St. Al’s defense allowed one shot. It was a weak roller that was easily scooped up by Hudson.

“Sometimes I’ll just sit there and play with the grass,” Kelly joked.

Like any good unit, a combination of skill and teamwork is behind the defense’s success. They’re all multiple-year starters and seem to share a brain at times. When asked one question during a group interview, the answer started with Hudson on the left side of the semi-circle and flowed through the rest, each player picking up the thought exactly where the last one left off without missing a beat.

“Our defense has been working together for three years, so we know how to talk and communicate,” Hudson said.

St. Al coach Scott Mathis said hard work has also been a big factor in the team’s success. Extra practice time has paid off to the point that everyone not only knows their jobs, but those of their teammates as well.

“You see them communicating and doing everything better. They’re feeding the ball forward better,” Mathis said.

Feeding it forward to those offensive players who get all the glory. The defenders still get a few moments to shine — Bottin scored a goal in the win over Indianola — but not many.

“You’re not really the stars,” Smith said with an air of resignation.

That’s OK, though, as Bottin noted when she picked up and finished the thought.

“We don’t get a lot of credit,” she said, “but we stop the goals.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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