By DAVID ERSOFF, Journal Sports
It wasn’t a championship game, just a friendly warmup for much-anticipated playoff runs on both sides.
But Saturday’s Byrd-Loyola girls soccer contest was championship-caliber, and produced a surprising winner.
The teams have routinely played this matchup on the final Saturday of the regular season to get playoff-caliber competition. It was the local area’s last regularly scheduled contest. Two loyal fan bases turned out, as the stands were full and fans spilled all over the grassy practice field overlooking the pitch at Byrd High.
The Lady Flyers’ fans went home happy, with a 3-1 victory that was the Lady Flyers’ first in this series since 2013. Byrd, by far the bigger school, has rarely been topped in these matchups, but to both programs’ credit, the friendly rivalry has continued and produced fine competition for as long as the 2022 seniors have been alive, and then some.
Byrd quickly took control for the first 15 minutes, with multiple chances to score. Loyola settled down and had the better of it in the next 15 minutes, including scoring a goal that was voided by an offsides call.
Shortly after a cross came to Loyola’s Kennedy Jarrett, she took a shot that was saved by a diving Emerson Roberts. It was an extraordinary effort, clearly the save of the game. Play evened out until Loyola had a free kick from 50 yards out by Mary Helen Burford. She put the ball into the box, Roberts came out to grab it as girls from both teams were charging her, and the ball deflected around until Jarrett scored.
That was the first half’s only goal. Loyola began the second half controlling play, but in the 17th minute Byrd had a counter attack which resulted in a foul in the box. The Lady Jackets cashed in the penalty kick when Landry Jones evened the score 1-1.
On the kickoff Loyola took the ball straight to goal and Madalyn Van Devender put the visitors back on top 2-1. A few minutes later Loyola’s Jarrett launched a corner kick that found Erin Campbell, who finished for a 3-1 lead.
The rest of the afternoon’s match was Byrd pushing everyone forward in an attempt to get back into the game. At the final whistle, both teams had given everything they had on the field.
Roberts had nine saves for Byrd. Millicent Mascagni had seven for Loyola in a worthy game preparing both sides for what certainly could be deep playoff runs.
Friday night, Byrd walloped Natchitoches Central 8-0.
Also Friday, Captain Shreve beat Parkway 5-2, led by Brooklyn Lattier’s hat trick and Alex Knight’s two goals. Avery Watson had five saves. Parkway got both goals from Maya Jackson. Aubri Dupre had nine saves. The loss cost Parkway dearly, dropping the Lady Panthers to the No. 33 seed, one spot out of the playoffs.
Photo by MARK MATLOCK