Region 4-AAA third-seeded Spalding (13-5), which had won seven in a row heading into the match — including a 9-0 opening-round victory at Harlem last week — watched its season come to an end in the second round of the state playoffs for the second time in the last three seasons. No. 1-state ranked St. Pius X (17-1-1), meanwhile, won its fifth in a row and remained unbeaten in 18 of 19 matches during a season where its only loss has been 2-1 on March 29 to No. 5 ranked Carrollton (13-5-1).
The Lady Golden Lions, which have outscored their opponents by a combined margin of 94-9 this season, now advance to a state quarterfinal-round match against No. 7-state ranked Oconee County (16-3-1). Oconee topped Howard 7-0 in its second-round match to reach to quarterfinals.
Spalding high head coach Wayne Gardner was not disappointed with his team’s showing Wednesday.
“We went into the match knowing that we had to play more defensive than we usually do with our system of play,” he said. “We wanted to defend, defend, defend and then counterattack when possible.”
And, for almost 24 minutes of the game, the Lady Jags held St. Pius scoreless.
With 26:15 remaining in the first half, a St. Pius winger placed a shot in the net. Another 20 yard shot from the midfield with 9:46 remaining left the score at half at 2-0. St. Pius scored 3 goals early in the second half within a 7-minute period of time. Their final goal came with less than 3 minutes left in the game as the Lady Jags kept the Golden Lions off the scoreboard for another 27 minutes.
SHS sophomore goalkeeper Madison Stansell made nine saves in the match and stepped out to collect crossing balls to shut down St. Pius attacks for the entire match.
“It was very nice to see Madison performing like this against an opponent of this caliber,” said Gardner. “She communicated with and worked effectively with all of our defenders. I see this game as being a very positive step for her in developing further in that position.”
Gardner praised all of his players. “They prepared well, and they worked extremely hard both before and during the game,” he said. “I am proud of each and every one of them and what they have accomplished this season.”
Eight seniors played in their final game as a Lady Jag. They are Morgan Evans, Myra Fisher, Taylor Hendricks, Natalia Jones, Morgan McKneely, Olivia O’Brien, Alex Reaves, and Madison Stewart. Two — Fisher and O’Brien — will play in college next year. Others have had opportunities to play in college but have opted to focus on academics only.
The senior class continued the program’s commitment to excellence. The Lady Jags have now qualified for the state playoffs 11 consecutive seasons, going two rounds or deeper at state the past 10 years in a row.