Lady Cats soccer clinches playoff berth

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Mar. 10, 2007 - TEXARKANA - Friday's game is in the books for the Sulphur Springs Lady Cats. In the record book and in the playoff book.

The Lady Cats dominated Texas High, 5-1, at Grimm Stadium to clinch a playoff berth. In the process, senior striker Gayle Grand-Lienard put her name in the record book by tying the school mark for most goals in the season.

Grand-Lienard posted her sixth hat trick of the season to reach 29 goals, matching the record set by Ashley Petty in 2004. Grand-Lienard will have at least two more games to try to break the record, the first coming on Monday at Texarkana Pleasant Grove.

SSHS coach Martin Bryant moved her off the front line after she scored her third goal of the game at the 26:31 mark that put the Lady Cats up 5-1.

Sulphur Springs was able to march to the victory in large part due to the play of midfielders Devyn Cullins, who had two assists, Robin Grafton, Sarah Goldsmith and Amanda Stoutenberg. They blunted virtually all Texas High offensive possessions and were able to keep feeding balls through to the forwards.

"Devyn, Robin, Sarah, Amanda - I thought they made the difference tonight," Bryant said. 'Something we haven't done in a couple of games was we won balls in the air tonight. We kept everything in and kept the pressure on.

"Because we kept the pressure on, I moved my back line up across midfield. We were taking corner kicks and I was putting (Brittany) Lamphere up where she was 30 yards outside goal. We were able to keep the pressure up, and that helped us a lot."

Sophomore forward Bonnie Grafton added a goal and three assists, and freshman striker Karlie Junot put in a goal as well.

The Lady Cats scored three times in the first half. The first goal came when Bonnie Grafton sent a pass from the right side of the goalie box and put it at the feet of Grand-Lienard, who knocked it past the goalie's right hand with 13 minutes gone in the game.

The most artistic goal came with 19:50 to go in the half when Cullins boomed an arcing cross from 30 yards out on the right wing toward the 6-yard box. Junot went up and headed the ball in, giving the goalie no chance to make a save, for a 2-0 lead.

Cullins had another assist with 96 seconds to go in the half when she sent a ball ahead to Bonnie Grafton, who fired it in the net from the top of the 18-yard box.

Texas High took only two shots on goal in the second half, but Cindy Minter was able to convert one of those chances on a one-on-one opportunity with six minutes gone in the second half.

It didn't matter, because Grand-Lienard answered with two goals in a span of six minutes, the first on another Grafton assist, and the final goal off a rebound of a Grafton shot.

That solidified a playoff spot for the Lady Cats, who will likely finish third in district behind Paris and North Lamar.

"All three teams are set, and we're officially in<" Bryant said. "It's not a real big load, because we thought we could win at least one out of the last two, but now we can get focused on Pleasant Grove and start looking ahead, too, to what we have coming up."

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