Lady Flashes advance to soccer state championship game

Published 7:16 pm Thursday, October 4, 2018

Three years ago, Brantlee Richards was a freshman defender helping St. Aloysius to win its first soccer state championship. Now a senior forward, her job has flipped to scoring goals instead of preventing them, but the second half of the description remains the same.

Richards scored two goals — one late in the first half and the other early in the second — to lead St. Aloysius to a 2-0 victory over Park Place on Thursday in the MAIS Class AAA girls soccer semifinals.

St. Al (9-3-1) will face either Bayou Academy or Heritage Academy in the championship game Saturday at 11 a.m. at Jackson Academy as it tries to win its second state title in four years.

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“I was part of the team in 2015 and nothing has ever played up to that moment until now,” Richards said. “I get to lead the team into our state championship as a senior, and I’m so excited. I could not do it without my girls. They were behind me at every point.”

Richards got the goals, but Thursday’s victory was indeed a total team effort. The Lady Flashes beat Park Place (10-4) for the third time this season. The defense withstood a sustained push for most of the second half without breaking to post its third consecutive shutout.

“It’s amazing. I knew we had a good group of girls coming in, but the way they’ve come together and started playing as a team, I’m just so proud,” St. Al coach Jessie Tate said.

The first half was mostly even until Richards finally broke the ice. She dribbled across the top of the goal box and chipped a shot past Park Place keeper Gracie Hammons in the 35th minute to give the Lady Flashes a 1-0 lead.

Then, five minutes into the second half, she added the backbreaker.

Anna Katherine Beauchamp chipped a pass from near midfield ahead to Richards about 25 yards from the goal. Richards somehow split three defenders and slipped past Hammons, who had come out to challenge the play, to get a free run at an empty net. Richards dribbled once, then calmly tapped the ball in from 10 yards out to make it 2-0.

“I got a through ball from Anna Katherine and it was just me and the goalie. I kicked it to the side and knocked it in,” Richards said. “The ball placement was perfect for the game. I couldn’t be more thankful for my team and having them behind me. I play as a forward and all my job to do is score goals. If I didn’t have my defense to hold them, then I would have never had my chance to score a goal.”

The rest of the game was largely anticlimactic. Park Place outshot St. Al 3-1 in the second half and 6-4 for the game, but keeper Cameron Mathis made six saves and was only seriously challenged on one or two of them. At no point did St. Al seem in danger of giving up its two-goal lead.

“After we got ahead by two, we knew that all we had to do was play some defense and waste some time. We told our girls we just needed to take our time and not get down on ourselves at any point and play defense the rest of the game,” Richards said.

MAIS Class AAA championship
• Saturday, 11 a.m.
• At Jackson Academy
• St. Aloysius vs. Bayou Academy or Heritage Academy

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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