CULLMAN - Getting to add a game to their schedule prior to the start of the playoffs benefited the St. Bernard soccer teams Thursday at home vs. J.B. Pennington.
The Lady Saints and Saints got what they needed, a solid test by the visitor, and came out victorious.
St. Bernard's Lady Saints won 2-1 thanks to the game-winning goal from Anna Myers with 8:00 remaining in the match.
A determined St. Bernard unit put together three goals in a span of eight minutes during the second half; that was enough to turn back Pennington 4-1.
The Lady Saints go to the playoffs with an 8-4 record while the Saints have won 10 of 13 decisions. Both travel to face Area 8 champion West Morgan on the road Tuesday in the first round. The Lady Saints play at 5 p.m. with the Saints and Rebels to go into battle at 7 p.m.
Lady Saints win hard encounter:
Isabella Cline put St. Bernard on top 1-0 with a goal at the 23:00 mark of the first half. Goal keeper Emma Tapazoli did her job, stopping three shot attempts by the Lady Tigers.
But St. Bernard stumbled on numerous chances to extend the lead, getting called five times in the first half for offsides when they had possession and were about to enter the Pennington zone.
The visitors from Blountsville began to create opportunities in the second half that got the game even. Melisa Ralios converted a shot with 15:45 to play, making the score 1-1.
Myers, a senior, fought hard the entire contest for John Drake's Lady Saints. With 8:00 to go and the game still even, Myers took the ball nearly the length of the field and got it past goalkepper Jenna Olge; that turned out to be the difference in the contest.
Tapazoli defended well at the net after St. Bernard regained the lead. The team was concerned when Myers went down with a minute remaining after a Pennington player made contact with her left knee.
Rita Guevara, Dana Hernandez, Bridgett Gallegos and Yessi Pascaul stepped it up in crunch time without Myers to save victory and compile a 4-2 record in games played on the St. Bernard campus this season.
Pennngton was coming off a 1-1 tie against Fairview on Tuesday that broke a five-game losing streak. The Lady Tigers end the season at 5-10-1.
Saints finish strong to knock off Tigers:
Bound and determined to prevent St. Bernard from extending their winning streak, J.B. Pennington stunned the Saints by getting a 1-0 lead when Ellas Perez got the ball past a Saints defender and goalkeeper Luis Anthony Diaz with 16:19 to go in the half.
The Saints dominated in shot opportunities, getting 10 by halftime. But they managed only one that went past goalie Alex Pesena.
Senior Miguel Sanchez kicked a ball off the left side of his foot that was strong enough to get into the left corner of the net with 11:47 showing in the period and the game tied 1-1.
Both teams went after each other aggressively in the second half with the Saints able to take advantage of a scoring chance.
With 17:00 to play, Michael Bain Clemmons directed the ball from the left side toward the right of the Pennington zone, finding Christian Peterson, who drilled the ball into the net, and the Saints led for the first time at 2-1.
It was a big day for Peterson off the field as well. Earlier in the afternoon, the AHSAA announced Peterson would be playing in the North-South basketball all-star game in Montgomery on July 19.
Less than four minutes later, the Saints added to their lead behind a solid play off the left side from Benjamin Borths. Borths worked his way to an area where he nailed the shot with St. Bernard moving the advantage to 3-1.
Borths was part of the last goal for the Saints when he attacked the left corner, finding Clemmons open in the middle. Clemmons blasted the shot from 25 yards and the Saints finished their scoring spurt, leading 4-1 and 9:00 away from finishing off the Tigers.
Coach Drake's squad received valuable contributions from Fulton Gil, Christian Garcia, Carson Holmes and Paul Schartung, besides the efforts of Sanchez, Clemmons, Peterson and Borths.
"We were nervous," Drake said afterwards. "We had chances and couldn't get the ball in there. We were more relaxed after we got the go-ahead goal and played well as a team. J.B. Pennington played us very tough. It helped us prepare for the playoffs."
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