|Lady Cats drop game to Paris, 4-3, at Noyes Stadium|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
March 14, 2006 - PARIS - For 70 minutes Monday night, the Sulphur Springs Lady Cats were on track to do something no one else in District 13-4A had done.
Then, Paris struck back.
Sulphur Springs took a 3-0 halftime lead over Paris, who had not been beaten in district play, but Paris scored four times in the second half including the deciding goal with eight minutes left to take a 4-3 victory at Noyes Stadium.
The loss for the Lady Cats means they will need help getting into the playoffs. They are 4-5 in district with 12 points, while North Lamar's 4-1 victory over Mount Pleasant on Monday gave the Pantherettes a 4-4-0-1 record and 13 points.
If North Lamar beats last-place Pleasant Grove on Saturday, they are in the playoffs. If NL loses, then Sulphur Springs needs to beat Texas High (6-3) when they meet at 1 p.m. Saturday at Gerald Prim Stadium.
Monday's game wasn't decided until the final minute. With 28 seconds to play, SSHS junior Gayle Grand-Lienard worked her way around the Paris defense and fired a shot from the top of the 18-yard box, but the ball skimmed the top rail of the goal as Paris escaped with the win.
In the first half, the Lady Cats rode the play of goalie Kai'la Petty, who had 16 first-half saves and 27 saves overall as Paris took 43 shots on goal. With D'Kota Hutchings able to shut down Paris' best player, Brooke Taylor, the Lady Cats made the most of their shots.
Goals from sisters Robin Grafton and Bonnie Grafton and another score from Grand-Lienard gave SSHS three goals on just eight first-half shots.
SSHS went up, 1-0, on a strong play from Robin Grafton. She won a ball sent ahead by Grand-Lienard, and fired a shot which was blocked by the Paris goalie who had left her line. Grafton controlled the rebound, then sank a left-footed goal from about eight yards out.
The Grafton sisters teamed up on the next goal with 24:54 left in the half. Robin made a long run down the right side, then sent a cross from the corner over to Bonnie, who knocked it in from point blank range to give the Lady Cats a 2-0 lead.
On the third goal, Grand-Lienard took a long pass from Amanda Stoutenberg and dribbled down the middle for about 30 yards. As the goalie came out, Grand-Lienard side-stepped her with the ball and then put it into the net with 5:01 left in the first half.
But, Paris scored four minutes into the second half to gain momentum.
"We went up 3-0 in the first half, and I told the girls that we had to keep going," said SSHS head coach J.J. Williams. "It looked like we had them down with about 15 minutes into it, and they came and scored and the momentum went all to them. I knew if they scored that we would have problems and that we needed to score again, but it didn't happen."
Darby Pierce scored Paris' first goal, then Taylor added a rebound goal off a shot from her sister, Taren Taylor, with 28:05 remaining in the game.
The Lady Cats were able to maintain the lead for 18 minutes behind the defense of sweeper Erica Verner and Morgan Baima.
But, with 10 minutes to play, Ali Ryan boomed a great shot from 22 yards out that went above Petty's leap into the top of the net to tie the game. Less than two minutes later, Taren Taylor got onto a deflected shot and one-timed it into an empty net for the deciding score.
Every goal in the game came on the south end, but Williams said a northern wind had little to do with the outcome.
"The wind wasn't too strong, but I think it was just different teams on the field," he said. "In the first half, we were wanting it and going after every ball, and in the second half we just weren't going after very many balls at all. They won them, and sent it to center and had some great shots."
Paris (9-0 in district, 27 points) has already secured the 13-4A championship. Texas High (6-3, 18) has also wrapped up a playoff berth as the district's runner-up.