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Going for gold: Lady Terriers looking for first title since 2009


Vandebilt Catholic senior Carly Ellender will help lead the Lady Terriers into Saturday’s Division II state title match against Ben Franklin at 11 a.m. at Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans. (Photo by File Photo)


The Vandebilt Catholic girls soccer team is tired of bringing home silver trophies, and its coach — Phillip Amedee — has said he has run out of second-place, post-game speeches.

Three straight state runner-up finishes will do that to a club.

But at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Tad Gormley Stadium at City Park in New Orleans, the top-seeded Lady Terriers will get another chance at gold when they play No. 3 Ben Franklin for the Division II state championship.

The Lady Terriers are making their sixth-straight trip to the state title match and after winning state in 2008 and 2009, fell to St. Louis Catholic in the 2010 title match and to Teurlings Catholic in the 2011 and 2012 finals.

Vandebilt (26-2-1) has an experienced club, and knows what it is like playing in a state title match.

The nine senior players are Whitney Champagne, Carly Ellender, Kristy Fazzio, Kimberly Grasso, Morgan Lewis, Shannon Matzke, Makelle Peña, Abby Thibodeaux and Kayla Wayne, and the two senior managers are Cristina Tefel and Syliva Masters.

“We’re excited. We have been through this so many times,” Peña, a starting forward, said. “This time we are hoping we come through with the victory. We just have to keep our mind-set and focus like it is another game, but we know the stakes are higher. It will test us. I believe that we can accomplish anything with this team.”

The Lady Terriers had a first-round bye in the playoffs, beat No. 16 St. Michael 7-0 in second round, topped No. 9 Pearl River 4-1 in the quarterfinals and downed No. 5 Lutcher 7-1 in semifinals.

Ben Franklin (19-0-0) starts five freshmen and also had a first-round bye in the playoffs, beat No. 14 Alexandria 10-0 in second round, beat No. 6 Lakeshore 1-0 in quarterfinals and beat No. 2 Teurlings Catholic 3-2 in double overtime in the state semifinals.

After getting down 2-0 early in the semifinals, Ben Franklin got two goals from Jenny Kjellgren and the winner from Eleanor Pratt late in the second overtime.

“Ben Franklin is a very talented, very well-coached team,” Amedee said. “They have a solid group of players who have a lot of experience at the club level. They are very aggressive and play some good technical soccer. We will have to be solid defensively to keep them out of the back of the net.”

Amedee said the Lady Terriers are focused and determined to bring home gold this season.

“The mind-set is good. We have had some good days of practice, and the level of intensity is high,” Amedee said. “If you are not motivated to play in the state championship, then you don’t belong out here. Playing at this level and for a state championship should be motivation in itself. They are motivated within. They are motivating themselves. I do very little to motivate them. We know the difference, but we handling it just like another game.”

Grasso, a starting midfielder, said the Lady Terriers, who will start sophomore Marianne Clark in goal, are confident in moving toward the state title match.

“We have to do what we have been doing all season — prepare and focus and play our game,” Grasso said. “If we do that, we should be fine.”

Tad Gormley Stadium has a turf playing surface, something Amedee said the Lady Terriers have played on six or seven times this season. Vandebilt will practice on the artificial turf of Pan American Stadium today in New Orleans to further prepare.

“You just have to be a little more careful with your passes because the ball is a little faster,” Amedee said. “The pace of your passes has to be a little more accurate. The ball bounces off the turf and takes different bounces. We just have to be able to adjust to that. Good soccer teams adjust. Hopefully, it should not be a factor.”

Ellender, a starting defender, too said players will have to be more careful with their passes while playing on the turf. “It is definitely different. The ball moves a lot quicker and it is smoother,” Ellender said. “It is definitely something to get used to.”

Ellender also pointed out what it will take for the Lady Terriers to bring home the state title on Saturday.

“We have to score quickly,” Ellender said. “Once we score quickly, we get momentum, and we keep going. On defense, the defenders just have to communicate well and be like a brick wall, which I know we can do because we have been working really hard. This is everything we have been working for so we just have to play from our hearts and hopefully we will come out on top.”