LaGrange High won for the 13th time this season on Tuesday night, and it was by far the most significant soccer victory of the year for the Lady Grangers.
That LaGrange High win came in the first round of the Class AAAA State Tournament. The game was a nail-biter from the beginning to the end, but the Lady Grangers found a way to survive and defeat White County, 1-0 in the playoff match at Callaway Stadium.
Eva Hutton, the junior playmaking midfielder for LaGrange High, soaked up all the aura and atmosphere from the field to the bleachers. The soccer buzz was thick enough to cut with a butcher knife.
“It was intense with high adrenaline. White County gave us a run for our money, but we came out bigger,” Hutton said with a post-game smile on her face.
Lady Granger freshman forward Caroline Thompson was in the middle of the soccer melee and the game as well. Thompson made the biggest shot of her life in this match. She scored what turned out to be the gamewinning goal with 11:29 left.
Thompson’s goal broke a scoreless tie, and it caused an uproar in the stadium and down on the artificial turf. The ground was shaking, and Thompson was celebrating with her LaGrange High teammates.
“We’ve been doing a lot of drills and working on our finishes. We anticipated a tough game, and White County came out hard,” said Thompson.
Her winning goal was her 17th score of the season. And it was Thompson’s biggest.
“She has good skills, and she sees the ball well,” said Hutton.
The Lady Grangers had some other “almost goals” in the second half. LaGrange High junior midfielder Maggie Asbell whizzed the ball just past the net on shots from 12 yards, 18 yards and 35 yards.
One of Asbell’s shots bounced off the top bar on the goal box. This game was just that close. The Lady Grangers beat a highly skilled team from White County, which is 8-6-1 on the season.
“They were pretty scary. They can hit from the outside. Their players have big legs, and they’re lanky,” said LaGrange High assistant coach Andy Fritchley.
The Lady Grangers could not have won this game without Thompson, Hutton and junior goalkeeper Maurie White. In this playoff tilt, White had six critical saves for LaGrange High.
“Maurie was ready to play, and our defense was composed. We know we’re a second half team. We’re in the habit of winning,” said Lady Granger head coach Colin Ross.
His girls would be 13-3-1 at the end of this State Tournament match. But this game was not won until the final second ticked off the clock at Callaway Stadium.
“White County came to fight (and play). They are very well coached,” said Ross.
The Lady Warriors did have a hard time getting past the LaGrange High defense, Maurie White included. But she had a lot of help and plenty of aggressive tackles from Lady Granger defenders Vanessa Lopez, Hayley Brazell, Maddie Patton and Hannah Asbell.
It was a hard fought duel, with the win going to La-Grange High.
“This means so much more (in the playoffs). We like the pressure, and every game means something. We had a wide range of emotions,” said Fritchley.
Chris Fernsler Sports Writer