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Lady Saints motivated to be state champions

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The Briarcrest Lady Saints, hoping to continue last season’s success, traveled to Jackson last Tuesday night to play perennial D2 A state contender the University School of Jackson Lady Bruins as coaches for both were anxious to see how their respective teams would open the season.
They did not have to wait long. Four minutes in, Briarcrest sophomore Sarina Diebenow took a ball deep into the left corner on the USJ side of the field and sent the ball into the middle of the box, but the USJ keeper, Morgan Williams, bobbled it causing the ball to bounce around the six yard box.
Briarcrest senior Allison Samisch managed to push the ball to an open Alyssa Neuberger five yards to Samisch’s right, and the reigning Commercial Appeal Player of the Year wasted no time blasting the ball into the right side of the net to give the Lady Saints the lead at 1-0.
It was the senior midfielder’s 56th career goal.
USJ started playing with a sense of urgency and pressed the Lady Saints “Steel Magnolia” defense. With 29 minutes left in the first half, the Lady Bruins went straight down the heart of the Briarcrest defense and in an amazing sequence within 20 seconds, four shots on goal were absolutely stuffed by each of the Lady Saint defenders- junior Kaitlin Echols, sophomore Ashton Pugh, sophomore Peyton Moore and Diebenow- leaving the home team obviously frustrated.
With 25 minutes left in the first half, USJ had an opportunity to put a point on the board when a Lady Bruin took a free kick from 35 yards out on the left wing.
The ball was sent into the Briarcrest box where a USJ attacking player attempted to head the ball past Briarcrest goalkeeper Marianne Agee. However, the junior was able to grab it over her head as she jumped from the goal line for the first of four saves on the night.
The next opportunity to score for either team came with 19 minutes left in the first half when a Briarcrest player took a shot from near the center circle.
The ball rebounded off USJ’s Williams as she attempted to catch it near the top of the USJ box. The ball then ricocheted off charging Briarcrest freshman Julia Perrusquia sending it towards the USJ goal line.
Perrusquia sprinted attempting to direct the ball into the USJ goal with her left foot but was unsuccessful as the ball bounded less than a yard to the left of the goal.
Eleven minutes left in the first half saw USJ with a prime scoring opportunity as a Lady Bruin managed to get behind the Briarcrest back line on the left side and just outside the six yard box blasted the ball at Agee at point blank range.
Agee managed to hang onto the ball to snuff out the most serious USJ threat in the first half.
Just two minutes later, USJ was again on the attack as another Lady Bruin took a pass just past midfield and headed towards the Briarcrest goal.
Just when it looked like a potential one on one situation with Agee, out of nowhere came center back Echols. The junior not only managed to force the attacking player towards the sidelines, but then quickly stole the ball before a shot was taken.
Briarcrest threatened at least two more times before the end of the half with a shot by junior midfielder Taegan Allen that went just wide left with seven minutes to go.
Then with four minutes left, Ashton Pugh lofted a free kick in middle of the USJ box that was grabbed by USJ’s Williams before any Lady Saints could get to it.
The second half started with Briarcrest attacking from the outset. One minute in, Neuberger took the ball straight down the middle of the field and managed to get inside the USJ box before being taken off her feet.
The ball then bounded towards the left wing where it was collected by senior Brittany Hatmaker. Hatmaker then brought the ball 15 yards back towards midfield and made a beautiful cross to Samisch on the right side of the box, but the ball went just beyond Samisch and out of bounds.
It was just one of many key passes the fleet footed senior made to her teammates that night.
Diebenow made a couple of potential assists just a little over five minutes into the second half. With 34 minutes left, she led Samisch with a ball to the top of the USJ box as Samisch charged towards the goal only for Williams to snatch it just before Samisch could get it.
A minute later, Diebenow sent a through ball to Hatmaker who slipped past the Lady Bruin back line. Hatmaker got a shot on goal only for Williams to save it.
With 32 minutes left, Hatmaker took a ball on the left wing in the Lady Bruin defensive third of the field and dribbled towards the goal line.
Once there, she crossed the ball into the box near the penalty spot where an awaiting Neuberger ripped it into the left side of the net as USJ’s Williams dove right to put the Lady Saints up 2-0.
Briarcrest was not content with a 2-0 lead, and with 27 minutes remaining in the game, Allen took a shot from 25 yards out that was stopped by Williams. Williams was challenged again six minutes later when Diebenow took a free kick from the left wing and sent the ball towards the USJ goal, but Williams caught it just off her line.
The Lady Bruins best opportunity to score in the second half occurred when with 19 minutes remaining, a USJ player near the top right side of the Briarcrest box found an opening and suddenly unleashed a blistering shot at the upper left corner of the Briarcrest goal, but Agee leapt and was able to deflect it over the crossbar for a USJ corner kick.
The Lady Saints Hatmaker answered that challenge with one of her own less than a minute later as she took the ball into the left side of the USJ box and got off a solid shot that was once again saved by Williams.
With 16 minutes left, Hatmaker made USJ pay with another beautiful cross from the left wing into the middle of the Lady Bruin box where Neuberger rammed it home from 10 yards out to make it 3-0 Briarcrest.
Perrusquia, seeking her first varsity goal, had an opportunity to make it 4-0 with seven minutes remaining when she launched a rocket at the USJ goal from 25 yards out that was tipped over the crossbar by Williams.
Shortly after that, senior Heinz Grant made a run down the right wing racing past a Lady Bruin defender before crossing a beautiful ball towards her cousin and fellow senior Holland Heinz who sat near the top of the USJ box, but it went just beyond Heinz as USJ was able to negate yet another Briarcrest scoring threat.
With four minutes left in the game, Samisch found a cutting Hatmaker as Hatmaker ran past the Lady Bruin back line once again. Hatmaker dribbled towards the middle of the USJ box and attempted to shoot it past Williams, but Williams was able to deflect out of bounds.
The Lady Saints were not letting up. With one minute remaining, Neuberger scored the final goal for Briarcrest off a corner kick and subsequent pass from Samisch as Neuberger camped in the middle of the USJ box 10 yards out. The senior sent a missile past Williams and several USJ defenders to cap a four goal night- the most in her Lady Saint career.
The Lady Saints now head to Chattanooga this weekend for the annual Baylor tournament playing three games within 24 hours including a long awaited rematch of last November’s state championship game with GPS.