Early season faceoff between Byrd, Shreve girls lives up to hype

TAKING A SHOT:  The Byrd girls tried to erase a one-goal deficit throughout the second half Tuesday night but couldn’t cash in on opportunities like this corner kick. (Photo by JULIE DAVIS)

By DAVID ERSOFF, Journal Sports

Key district soccer matchups don’t typically get played before Christmas, but fans who watched Tuesday night’s girls Division I, District 1 battle between Captain Shreve and Byrd got an early Christmas gift.

This matchup has determined the last three district champions. If that holds, the Lady Gators will regain their stranglehold on the title based on their 2-1 victory in a game at defending champ Byrd that lived up to expectations.

A day after six of Shreveport-Bossier’s best female soccer players came back from Arizona, where they were competing in a Girls Academy College Showcase, Byrd’s Ellie Lawrence and Shreve’s Alex Knight and Ella Grace Davis had to jump right back into high school team mode at the highest level. Magnet’s Isabella Baltov, Calvary’s Pamela Lee and Loyola’s (and recent Louisiana Tech commit) Mary Helen Burford also attended the showcase in Arizona.

Tuesday’s contest began as expected with both teams playing it close to the vest and not pushing numbers forward, leaving themselves vulnerable to the counterattack, well executed by both squads game after game. In the 13th minute, Shreve got that chance, as Maddie Aubrey had a 1v1 with Byrd’s keeper Bailey Moore. Moore came up big, diving to Aubrey’s feet and making the save.

Knight put the Lady Gators on the board in the 24th minute when she received a pass from Brooklyn Lattier, turned and fired into the net past a diving Moore. The Lady Jackets’ best chance to score in the first half came in the 30th minute, when the ball bounced around Shreve’s box after a corner kick. In what seemed an eternity, the ball finally ended up in the hands of Avery Watson, Shreve’s keeper.

Two minutes later, Shreve launched another counter, again with Aubrey heading to goal. She took a shot from 25 yards out that went off the crossbar. The half ended 1-0.

The fans hadn’t even settled in their seats as Shreve took the second-half kickoff down the field.  Aubrey fed Knight in front of the goal, where Knight doubled the lead to 2-0. 

Three minutes later, Byrd got a counter of its own, when the center referee whistled a penalty in the box. MyJoi Anderson took the penalty kick, calmly putting it the back of the net, and the Lady Jackets cut the lead in half, 2-1.

The ball went up and down the field for the remainder of the half, with Byrd applying some sustained pressure, doing whatever the Lady Jackets could to find a way to tie the game. The visiting crowd was counting down the clock, almost begging for that final whistle. Before it sounded, Byrd’s Lawrence took a shot from distance that came in hard, causing Watson to block it, then dive on the rebound to preserve Shreve’s edge.

Moments later, the final whistle blew. The only sad reality is the fans can see these teams play only once a year — unless the playoff bracket matches them in February.

Contact David at dersoff@bellsouth.net