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Lady Terriers drop fourth-straight state-title match


Vandebilt Catholic's Kimberly Grasso (7) wins a header over Ben Franklin's Claire Nance (2) during Saturday's Division II state championship match at Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans. Ben Franklin won, 2-0. (Photo by Benjamin Oliver Hicks/Staff)


NEW ORLEANS — The blissful ending of redemption and triumph was not to be for the seniors on the Vandebilt Catholic girls soccer team.

Gunning for their first state title in four straight trips to the Division II title match, the No. 1 seeded Lady Terriers were topped 2-0 by No. 3 Ben Franklin on a dreary and overcast day at Tad Gormley Stadium on Saturday.

After a scoreless first half, which featured a 45-minute weather delay caused by lightning 26 minutes in, Ben Franklin scored a goal off a flick after a free kick, and then added a breakaway goal for the 2-0 final.

The Falcons (21-0-0) defense kept the normally high-powered Vandebilt (27-3-1) offense at bay, and the nine Lady Terriers seniors had to painfully settle for their fourth-straight runner-up title.

"We had a hard time trying to get through them," Vandebilt senior Kimberly Grasso said. "It was hard for us to get numbers forward. We all worked hard. That's all we could do. It's just didn't fall the way we wanted it to."

Ben Franklin, which started four freshmen, man-marked Grasso and Vandebilt starting forward Makelle Peña all match and limited their crosses into the box, combination game and their shots on goal.

"Vandebilt is a senior-laden team, but our girls worked hard all year," Falcons coach Jose Ferrand said. "We only allowed eight goals all season. We had total confidence in our defense. I think we prepared well. We did a lot of combined training with the boys and it paid off. We stopped them from crossing from the outside, and they only got a couple of quality crosses."

The Lady Terriers, making their sixth straight state-title match appearance, controlled much of the action in the first half before and after the 45-minute delay but failed to get on the scoreboard.

"We have been saying all playoffs that it is important to score early because it sets the tempo," Lady Terriers coach Phillip Amedee said. "As long as you keep a team in the game, they get more and more confidence. (Ben Franklin) was playing with nothing to lose. When you are in that situation, you can afford to take a few risks and do what you have to do to win."

Lady Terriers senior defender Carly Ellender said missing out on a couple of chances early hurt.

"We were just unlucky," Ellender said. "We dominated the first half. It just didn't come out the way we wanted. We didn't take advantage of the opportunities that we had."

Peña said the weather delay was not a big deal for Vandebilt.

"It can mess with your head, but I think we came out strong and didn't let it get to us," Peña said. "They made those two times they got through count. Sometimes if falls that way. We gave it our all. Ben Franklin is a good team. I can speak for all our seniors when I say we gave it our all."

For Ferrand, he said he noticed a big change in his team after the clubs left the field because of lightning in the area and came back onto the turf field at Gormley.

"They got composed after the break," Jose said. "They came out of that break and knew they were ready for the rest of the match."

The Falcons started quickly early in the second half. Vanderbilt's Shannon Matzke was shown a yellow card for a tackle from behind on a Falcons player and that setup a long free kick into the box where Audrey Peterson flicked it past Lady Terriers goalie Marianne Clark for a 1-0 Ben Franklin lead in the 44th minute.

The lofting ball was sent in nicely from Amalia Skalos.

"I thought we were going to take care of business in the second half, but it wasn't meant to be," Amedee said. "We gave up that first goal and never recovered."

The Falcons went ahead 2-0 in the 51st minute when match MVP Alex Thomas beat a Vandy defender and scored in the lower left corner of the net.

The Lady Terriers had chances to score late but could not crack the Falcons defense or Ben Franklin goalie Katrina Seal, who got the victory.

"Their backline played well," Amedee said. "They committed themselves to defending and counterattacking, and they have the personnel to do it. It allowed them to keep some people back defensively and it disrupted our combination play."

It was a heartbreaking ending to the prep soccer careers for Lady Terriers seniors Whitney Champagne, Ellender, Kristy Fazzio, Grasso, Morgan Lewis, Matzke, Peña, Abby Thibodeaux and Kayla Wayne, and the two senior managers — Cristina Tefel and Sylvia Masters.

Most left the field in tears.

"Despite the fact they did not win a state championship, they were here (in the state-title match) every year of their high school year," Amedee said. "There are not many girls in the country who can say that. We didn't win it, but we accomplished some things that not very many people have ever accomplished. I love them, and I am proud of them."