Lady Cats end regular season with shootout loss
By KORTNEY STAGEBERG | News-Telegram Correspondent

March 12, 2004 -- Although the Sulphur Springs Lady Cats are district champs, their senior night ended with a 2-2 regulation tie followed by a 4-3 shootout loss Monday night against Texas High at Gerald Prim Stadium.

SSHS (12-8) finished district play with a 5-2-1 record and will begin their postseason with a bye before playing the winner between the runner-up of District 15-4A and the third-place team of District 16-4A.

The Lady Cats were without the services of starting sweeper Danielle Smith due to an ankle injury plus their top two goalies in Lacey Lopez and Kai'la Petty. Yorri Franklin stepped in to play goalie for the third straight game and was coming off consecutive shutouts against Mount Pleasant and Paris.

Franklin said she told herself to do her best and everything would be all right. With that in mind, she deflected the first T-High shot. The Lady Tigers' second attempt went wide right, and Franklin deflected the third attempt, but the ball rolled into the left side of the goal. The fourth shot also sailed wide right, and the fifth was chipped over Franklin's head for the game-winner.

Gayle Grand-Lienard gave SSHS a brief lead in the shootout, sending a shot into the bottom left corner of the net. Fellow freshman Robin Grafton and junior Ashley Petty were both denied by the Tiger keeper, while junior Tess Bragg's left-footed shot sailed just right of the goalpost. Maci Chester was the Lady Cats' final chance at sending the game into a second shootout, but her shot was deflected.

Texas High scored in the game's first minute and held a 1-0 lead until the 16-minute mark, when Petty tied the score with her 24th goal of the season on a direct kick caused by a handball in the goalie box by a Lady Tiger defender. T-High had a chance to score again a minute later off a corner kick but was denied by the SSHS defense. The Lady Cats had another opportunity to score at the 11:30 mark off a corner kick from Bragg but were forced to settle for a 1-1 tie at the end of the first half.

Petty, Grand-Lienard, Kaleigh Thompson, Jennifer Moreland and Makenzie Kelty all had shots in the first 40 minutes, and Franklin finished with three saves.

The teams battled back and forth the first 24 minutes of the second half, and it seemed as though SSHS had the first big opportunity to score with 19 minutes left in the game after Petty was fouled. Bragg missed a shot from 35 yards out, and the Lady Tigers scored three minutes later for a 2-1 lead.

The Lady Cats didn't let the deficit get them down, battling the ball back and forth for 13 minutes until finally catching a break when T-High was called for another handball in the goalie box with just three minutes left in the game. Petty took the shot and tapped it into the lower right corner for her 25th of the year to tie the game 2-2.

Petty, Grand-Lienard, Bragg and Kelty all had shots in the second half, while Franklin finished with five saves. Defensive standouts were Grafton, Chester, Amanda McDonald and Caroline Capobianco.

SSHS head coach J.J. Williams said the girls started out with a good chance of winning district.

"There was absolutely no doubt in my mind the girls could win district," Williams said. "The only question was would they, but my girls did a really good job of taking it upon themselves to prepare for the season, and that shows in our district record."

Williams also stated the Lady Cats got into the habit early of breaking out of practice shouting "District Champs!"

"After every practice, we would also decide on what to say in the closing huddle, and it always ended up being district champs," Williams said. "That saying just stuck in the girls' minds, and they were determined to make it a reality."

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