High School Sports

Late goal drops West Harrison in 5A Girls state finals

CHRIS TODD/SPECIAL TO THE SUN HERALD 
 West Harrison's Savannah Ellis holds her face on the bench while watching the action after taking a ball to the head on Saturday, February 6, 2016, at the MHSAA Soccer Championships at Madison Central High School in Madison, Miss.
CHRIS TODD/SPECIAL TO THE SUN HERALD West Harrison's Savannah Ellis holds her face on the bench while watching the action after taking a ball to the head on Saturday, February 6, 2016, at the MHSAA Soccer Championships at Madison Central High School in Madison, Miss.

MADISON - Morgan O'Connor didn't play like an eighth grader Saturday.

Oxford's striker gave West Harrison fits for much of the MHSAA Class 5A girls soccer championship and ultimately delivered the decisive blow in the 2-1 loss for the Lady Hurricanes.

With four minutes remaining in regulation, the Lady Chargers' talented forward broke through a crowd and blasted a shot past West Harrison's keeper. The Lady Hurricanes attempted to mount an immediate counter against Oxford but a serious threat never materialized.

"They have a good team. No. 11 (O'Connor) is a special player," West Harrison coach Todd Moniz said. "In the end, it's probably the difference, our inability to contain her. She created the chances for them with the free kick in the first half and then the goal in the second half."

West Harrison (17-3-2) struck first against Oxford (20-5) in the 13th minute on shot by Gabby Vincent from 25 yards out that tucked just inside the right post.

"That's what we had talked about being able to do against this team because of the way they sit back with their defenders," Moniz said. "We knew there going to space from the outside to strike the ball and shoot. We were able to pressure the ball and get it to her in a good spot. Gabby is a quality striker and put it where she needed to."

The lead was short-lived as O'Connor was fouled three minutes later. Addison Mills took advantage, banking a free kick from 23 yards out off of the cross bar and into the net.

Both teams traded shots in the second half but it was O'Connor's final attempt that sealed the game.

"We switched our formation to try and address (O'Connor) a little more and I think it took our ability to go forward out of the picture," Moniz said. "She was a threat. We knew it and ultimately it just didn't work out for us."

West Harrison's season ended on a sour note, but the Lady Hurricanes have plenty of reasons to be proud of their first run to state. With Moniz serving as the team's third coach in as many seasons, the Lady Canes ripped through their region schedule without allowing a goal and knocked off two-time defending champion West Jones in South State.

Only losing three seniors from this year's squad, perhaps the memory of Oxford being awarded the golden ball will serve as motivation for West Harrison moving forward.

"I hope so," he said. "I think it will."

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