|Lady Cats soccer team in second place with three games to play|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
March 12, 2005 - The Sulphur Springs Lady Cats gave themselves some much-needed breathing room in the 13-4A soccer standings Friday night, while at the same time they continued to put pressure on district-leading Paris.
The Lady Cats controlled Friday's 3-0 victory over Mount Pleasant from start to finish, solidifying their hold on the district's second spot with just one week remaining in the regular season.
The victory gives Sulphur Springs (4-2-0-2) 14 points in the standings, and depending on the result between Texas High (10 points) and North Lamar (nine points), the Lady Cats will have at least a three-point lead over fourth place. In the other 13-4A game Friday, Paris (16 points) hosted Pleasant Grove (eight points).
"I told the girls that we have our backs against the wall and we have to fight our way out, and they did," said SSHS head coach J.J. Williams. "Every time I challenge them, they fight their way out and find a way to win. This was a great win for us."
It was certainly one they couldn't afford to lose with games against Paris on Monday and Texas High on Saturday to close out the regular season.
They notched the victory behind a pair of goals from sophomore Robin Grafton and another goal and assist from classmate Gayle Grand-Lienard, plus a stifling defense led by Erica Verner, Makenzie Kelty, Jennifer Moreland and keeper Kai'la Petty.
"I changed a few positions around,' Williams said. "I put Ashley Petty and Jennifer Moreland in the sweeper and center defender spot to control the middle and put more speed up front.
"We killed them with speed and killed them in the midfield with controlling the ball. Our defense shut them down all night. With those three areas of the game working for you, obviously you'll win a lot of games."
The Lady Cats struck early with a break-away goal from Grafton less than three minutes into the game. She scored again later in the first half on a cross from Grand-Lienard to give SSHS a 2-0 lead.
Grand-Lienard wrapped up the scoring with 7:30 to play in the first half with a hard shot past the goalie from 18 yards out.
"People come up to me all the time and ask me about Robin and Gayle, and they can't believe they're both sophomores," Williams said. "For both of them to be that advanced this early in their careers is a testament to them, and they'll do great things for this program."
After their first half scoring spree, it was up to the SSHS defense to close out the game.
Verner and Kelty did a good job of marking up the Mount Pleasant forwards to protect Petty in goal. When they did get by, Petty kept everything in front of her.
Eight minutes into the second half, she was able to tip a 20-yard free kick by Mount Pleasant over the goal, and then she denied two shots within a 30-second span at about the 15-minute mark. The first one, Petty deflected over the goal, and the second one she smothered on a 10-yard shot.
Then, Bragg, Moreland and the forwards were able to keep the ball in their end of the field most of the night.
"I think they were just naturally more aggressive because it was Mount Pleasant," Williams said. "We're going to need that the last two games, and we still have a shot to be district champs."