By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
CLINTON – Beware of underdogs.
Hattiesburg’s Sacred Heart entered Saturday’s MHSAA Class 1A-2A-3A state championship soccer match a heavy favorite to defeat South Pontotoc.
The Lady Crusaders won the state title, 4-1, against the North state champion Lady Cougars at Clinton High School footbal stadium, but not without suffering a few bites.
“When you tell us we’re the underdog, well, we’re going to show you how good we really are,” South Pontotoc sophomore goal keeper Breauna Holley said, moments after receiving her silver medal.
Added junior forward Tristan Kitchens, “We gave them our game. They had to play their best. We left everything we had on that field.”
Sacred Heart (17-3-1) didn’t score its first goal until the 34th minute on a direct kick by Alex Hammett. The shot just grazed the gloved finger tips of a leaping Holley.
“(Holley) always gives it everything she’s got,” South Pontotoc coach Horace Kitchens said.
South Pontotoc’s (14-6) defense and midfield pressured the attacking Lady Crusaders in the first half.
“I thought we could play with them,” Horace Kitchens said. “They spread the ball out and moved it to open space. They made some good passes. (Sacred Heart) is the complete, total package.”
The Lady Cougars tied the score at 1-1 on a goal by Tristan Kitchens off an assist from Anna Mills in the 51st minute.
“When the ball got to me, I did what I had to do … I got it in the goal,” said the younger Kitchens, who scored the game-winner in the state semifinals against Clarkdale.
Sacred Heart went into attack mode down the stretch and took a 2-1 lead in the 69th minute on a goal by Mary Margaret Parker, following a deflection in the goal by Holley, who recorded six saves.
“They kept us pinned up down there and kept pounding the ball in on us,” Horace Kitchens said. “When that happens, it’s just a matter of time.”
Five minutes later, Parker had the assist on Brooke Haddad’s goal that gave Sacred Heart a 3-1 lead.
Gabrielle Craig scored the Crusaders’ final goal in the 78th minute.