The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

May 10, 2014

Athens falls short in state final

HUNTSVILLE — The first two minutes and the last two minutes of the first half doomed Athens Saturday in 2-0 loss in the state finals against John Carroll. The second goal, less than a minute before halftime, put AHS in an uphill battle for the remainder of the game.

“The momentum definitely switched,” said senior Miranda Huddleston. “After that second goal, you could tell some of the girls heads were hanging kind of low. Me and Riley (Ridgeway) were trying to pump them up. It didn’t happen this year, but hopefully they’ll come back with more passion next year and I’ll be right there on the sidelines cheering them on.”

Trailing 2-0, Athens could not create enough chances to threaten the John Carroll goal in the second half. The Cavaliers outshot Athens 24 to 5 in the game.

“Against great teams, you can’t make mistakes. We didn’t make many, but the ones we did cost us,” said Athens coach Stace Tedford. “I’m as proud of these girls as anyone I’ve every coached. They played hard and they played through adversity. They’re all walking out of here with their head up. To be in the championship game for three years in a row is pretty phenomenal.”

Lindsey Fleming opening the scoring for John Carroll exactly two minutes into the game.  The goal snapped a 251-minute shutout streak for the Golden Eagles at the state tournament, dating back six halves and three overtime periods.

The previous goal was scored in the final minutes of the 2012 state championship game against Chelsea.

Athens weathered the Cavaliers’ relentless attack in the opening twenty minutes following the goal. AHS goalkeeper Tiffani Dunaway made back-to-back saves from close range in the 7th minute. The junior made another fine save 22 minutes into the game when she dove to her near post to keep the score 1-0.

AHS looked like it would go into halftime just a goal down, but a quick corner kick 90 seconds before the break gave John Carroll a two-goal advantage.

“That second goal was huge,” said Tedford. “They got a cheap goal early, but when we went down 2-0, that put a lot of pressure on us. Our girls came out in the second half and didn’t panic. If you panic against a team like John Carroll, you’re going to get beat 7-0. We played a lot more aggressive in that second half.”

Less than a minute into the second half, Dunaway made her best save of the game with a diving stop to the upper-left corner to keep Athens in the game. Dunaway had a game-high eight saves.

The loss is the second in three seasons at the 5A state championship game for the defending state champions. The Golden Eagles finish their season with a 16-7-2 record.

John Carroll finished with a 29-3-1 record. It was the Cavaliers first state title since 2000.

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