Lady 'Saders advance to another South State game

By CAMAL PETRO,

HATTIESBURG – The Sacred Heart Lady Crusaders continue to be the most consistent soccer team in the state.

For the fourth straight season, and the seventh time in eight years, the Lady ‘Saders will play for a south state title after beating the Clarkdale Lady Bulldogs 3-0 in the second round Saturday afternoon.

“It’s a dream being here,” Sacred Heart coach Joe Falla Sr. said. “It’s something to be thankful for, I never take it for granted and I thank God that I have a nice group of kids who can play together at any position that I choose for them to play.”

RELATED: Sacred Heart boys advance to south state

A deep playoff run isn’t anything new for Sacred Heart, and the experienced showed on the pitch Saturday. After grabbing a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute, Sacred Heart had many different opportunities – including three corner kicks in a three-minute span – to extend the lead.

It left Joe Falla Sr. frustrated on the sidelines, but he laughed it off after the game.

“That’s how it is,” he said. “We were set up in the right positions, we got people crossing the ball, but we missed some good opportunities.”

The Lady Crusaders never stopped attacking, though, and it paid off.

Senior Jessica Hyde scored the game’s first goal in that sixth minute, and it came off a nice cross from Lauren Jones from the right side. Moments before the goal, Hyde had another try inside the 18-yard box that sailed high over the goal, but she wasn’t going to miss the second opportunity.

She headed Jones’ cross past the keeper to take a 1-0 lead.

“I already got my jitters out with that terrible shot,” Hyde said of her first attempt at the goal. “I saw the ball coming in, and Lauren always plays me perfect balls, so I have to give the credit to her. If she didn’t play a perfect ball, there’s no way I’d be able to get my head on it.”

Hyde’s first try did come into her mind as Jones’ pass neared, and she made a split-second decision to put her head on the ball instead of playing the ball to her feet for a shot.

“I saw it coming and I thought about it in my head,” she said. “‘I don’t want to kick this one because the last one went over.’ So, I put my head into it and it went exactly where I wanted it to.”

The two teams went into the break with the score still 1-0, but Sacred Heart added its second goal 10 minutes into the second half. Gracie Falla crossed a ball through Clarkdale’s box and it deflected off a defender right to Olivia Ware’s feet. Ware sent a shot a little high, but it hit the crossbar and fell just over the line to make it a 2-0 contest.

The Lady Crusaders weren’t done either, as they added an insurance goal with five minutes left in the game. Gracie Falla took the ball inside the box from the right side, then took a shot with her left foot that deflected off a defender, and it rolled just past the Clarkdale goalkeeper.

That effectively ended any hopes of a Clarkdale comeback.

Sacred Heart will host St. Patrick next week for the 1A/2A/3A South State Championship, and the Lady Crusaders have already taken down the Lady Irish 3-2 and 4-0 this season. Since the Sacred Heart boys will travel to St. Patrick for its south state game, both schools will most likely try to play the games on separate days so fans can attend both matches.

St. Patrick defeated North Forrest 10-0 in the first round last week, then handed the Franklin County Lady Bulldogs a 3-1 loss Friday night to advance to south state.

“I wanted to get through this game here,” Falla Sr. said. “We can handle it.”

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