Park Place stymies St. Al in MAIS soccer semifinals

Published 8:26 pm Thursday, October 5, 2017

PEARL — The first two times St. Aloysius played Park Place this season, it did not go well.

The third, final, and most important meeting came on Thursday and it went better for the Lady Flashes — but not well enough.

Macie Shelton scored the go-ahead goal in the 60th minute and Bailey Steen added an insurance goal in the 73rd as Park Place beat St. Al 3-2 in the MAIS Class AAA girls soccer semifinals.

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Park Place (13-0-1) advanced to face Starkville Academy in the state championship game on Monday. Starkville beat Indianola Academy 1-0 in the other semifinal game Thursday.

St. Al (9-4) reached the semifinals for the second time in three seasons — it won the state title in 2015 — but lost to Park Place for the third time this year. Park Place won the first two meetings by a combined score of 8-1.

“I think this year, we played really well. We only lost a few games and it was only against Park Place,” said St. Al forward Mary Ranager, who scored a goal Thursday and is the team’s only senior. “I’ve really enjoyed playing at St. Al. I’m going to miss it.”

St. Al got off to a great start Thursday. In the 14th minute, Ranager took a shot from the right side of the goal that was stopped by Park Place keeper Gracie Hammons. The rebound came straight to Madelyn Polk, who knocked it into the net for a 1-0 lead.

Polk had another goal negated by an offsides call in the 20th minute, and it seemed to shift momentum toward the Lady Crusaders. Park Place gradually took control of the game and finally tied it on a goal by Sybil Roberson in the 36th minute.

“It was huge, especially when it’s that close. When your player and their player say it was exactly even, it could go either way,” St. Al coach Scott Mathis said of Polk’s disallowed goal.

Park Place continued to apply pressure and control the flow in the early stages of the second half. It outshot the Lady Flashes 7-2 over the last 40 minutes, and held them without a shot for nearly 25 minutes.

The go-ahead goal came at the midway point of the half. A corner kick led to a scrum in front of the net and five St. Al players were not able to get a clean foot on the ball to clear it. Shelton finally got it in enough space to rip a shot past keeper Cameron Mathis and make it 2-1.

“They weren’t playing like they know how to play, and they let those players get in their heads,” Scott Mathis said. “It wore us down.”

Steen scored in the 73rd minute to make it 3-1 and seemingly ice it for Park Place. Ranager, however, scored on a breakaway a minute later to give the Lady Flashes some life.

They picked up the pace but never got another good look at the goal. Park Place held off the final rush of energy and survived to advance to its first state championship game.

“I think people started getting down on themselves and started getting upset. We got ahead, and then after they scored it surprised them,” Ranager said. “It’s hard. It upset everyone. Everyone did try their hardest, and we kept pushing and scored again. It got everybody’s hopes up. We kept pushing.”

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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