High School Sports

Off to the races: Ocean Springs sweeps Oak Grove in the first round

AMANDA McCOY/SUN HERALD 
 Oak Grove's Lauren Pitts, left, and Ocean Springs' Kaylee Foster compete for the ball during the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs on Monday, January 25 2016.
AMANDA McCOY/SUN HERALD Oak Grove's Lauren Pitts, left, and Ocean Springs' Kaylee Foster compete for the ball during the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs on Monday, January 25 2016. SUN HERALD

OCEAN SPRINGS -- Momentum can be a powerful force in soccer.

Almost like someone is tilting a foosball table, once a team begins clicking it can be hard to knock them off the ball.

For the Ocean Springs Lady Greyhounds, it took all of two minutes for the home squad to jump ahead in Monday night's 3-0 first-round meeting against Oak Grove.

The OSHS boys took a touch longer to tilt the table in their favor at Greyhounds Stadium.

Mike Jimenez scored a pair of goals in the 60th and 68th minutes to lift the defending Class 6A South State champions to a 3-0 victory over Oak Grove.

With the wins, the Lady Greyhounds will travel to the winner of Biloxi/Pearl, while the Greyhounds will visit the victor of Gulfport/Pearl.

Ocean Springs girls 3, Oak Grove 0

Bradi Szegeti set the tone for defending Class 6A South State champion Ocean Springs (14-5-2), scoring just two minutes into the first-round matchup. The senior lifted a high arching shot toward the goal, which the strong wind seemingly knocked down and into the top of the goal.

"I think the difference in the game was we were able to get behind their back line," OSHS girls coach Patrick Hayes said. "Brandi put up a Hail Mary and it just happened to find the back of the net and I think that really got us on the right track."

Ocean Springs dominated possession throughout the match and went ahead of Oak Grove (13-5-2) 2-0 in the 14th minute. The visiting keeper collided with a defender while chasing a 50-50 ball just inside the box, leaving Kelsay Himel to chip the ball into the exposed goal.

Himel added her second goal in the 69th minute when she buried her own rebound off an initial save.

"Kelsay caused problems for them all night with the dribbling and her speed," Hayes said. "Kelsay is coming on. Lately she has really taken the load, as far as scoring, which has helped us. That's hard - if you can't score you can't win championships. To have a special player like that is definitely helpful."

In addition to crediting goalkeeper Karsen Gildea, who made 11 saves to preserve the shutout, Emma Hunt helped keep Oak Grove's attackers in check.

"She's normally in the attack and I moved her in front of the back line and she kind of shut things down," Hayes said.

Ocean Springs 3, Oak Grove 0

In the first half, Ocean Springs (14-6-2) let Oak Grove's direct style of play dictate the pace of the game. The Greyhounds came out in command in the second half and instead took the game to the Warriors (9-12-1).

"The (first) goal was the dagger, but when we came out in the second half, for the first 12 minutes I don't know that they got the ball across midfield," OSHS boys coach Jeff French said. "The guys just came out and said 'enough funny business, let's do what we're supposed to do' and they did it."

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Jimenez's first goal was set up by a free kick from Kyle Hillyard 65 yards out. Steven Gallagher won the ball in a crowd flicked the ball through with his head to a streaking Jimenez behind the Oak Grove back line. Alone on the goalie, the skillful sophomore tucked the ball inside the right post.

"I knew I wouldn't be able to flick it past the keeper, so I just tried to put it behind me," Gallagher said. "I knew people were back there -- I just didn't know who. I flicked it and Mike was there, thank goodness."

Added Jimenez: "The ball just went right to my foot. I was just watching the ball the entire time and did what I knew to do."

The second goal took a bit of luck. Similar to the first goal, Hillyard played the ball into the box on a free kick. Jimenez possessed the loose ball and his shot somehow found its way into the net.

"My intention was to flick it on to one of my teammates, but I don't know if the goalie had an unlucky slip or what, but it went through his hands," Jimenez said.

Ocean Springs' third goal was a no-doubter from Gallagher in the 78th minute as he blasted a shot from just inside the box past the keeper.

Greyhounds goalkeeper Travis Harper remained stable in net, turning away all seven shots he faced for the shutout.

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