By John Davis, Sports Editor
MADISON – History was made in Saturday’s MHSAA Class 5A girls soccer state title match, and fortunately it was made in favor of the Oxford Lady Chargers. <>
All season long, the Lady Chargers had to prove naysayers wrong, and overcome their own hurdles. The hard work, and bonding, of the summer paid off in the biggest match of the year as the Lady Chargers defeated the West Harrison Lady Hurricanes 2-1 at Madison Central High.
A love for each other was the difference in the win. Even when the Lady Chargers fell behind 1-0 early, the kept believing. And when Morgan O’Connor scored with just under five minutes left in the contest, all the bonding poured out.
“I don’t know what to feel right now. I’m just excited, excited for my team. They just worked all season long and they have done nothing but expect to win,” said first-year OHS coach Hunter Crane. “It’s my first time here and we were able to come away with it. What a game. You have to give West Harrison all the credit for making it a battle for 80 minutes. I love them girls to death. I couldn’t imagine anywhere else I would rather be.”
Following the victory and trophy presentation, the Lady Chargers went into the stands. Smothered by Oxford students, and their parents, the team hugged long and hard. It was a special moment for the seniors, who have always known they had the talent but were unable to find a way to pull it all together until this season.
Addison Mills, a sophomore, scored the first goal of the night for the Lady Chargers, who finished the year with 20 wins in 25 matches.
“It was a big momentum change. We started picking up the pace and started settling down and passing. I think that goal really helped us,” Mills said before talking about her teammates. “It all changed this year. We’re all together, better together.”
Mills added that the team always expect O’Connor to get the ball in the back of the net.
“We work on it every day through the year. Mo has been our No. 1 scorer,” Mills said of the talented eighth grader who set the single season goal record at OHS this year. “Coach told us at the half that we needed to settle down and to keep possessing. He said we were dominating, we just had to keep going. This feels amazing. We made history and I can’t wait to see our rings. We’re going to get a lot more perks with winning, more respect.”
Ally Shinall, also a sophomore, was sent to the field hard at the end of the match. She limped to the trophy ceremony but her tears were joyful in nature. And any pain she had had disappeared, or at least dissipated, following the victory.
“It’s great. I’ve never had this feeling,” she said with a huge smile. “I’ve got to two state cross country meets before this and we’ve lost two close ones. This is great. We went through a rough start at the beginning of the season. Our main problem last year was chemistry between the team and it’s gotten a lot better this year. We’re a lot closer and I really think that’s what helped us this year. We had all the talent in the world last year and we just didn’t get along. (Crane) brought that to our team. It’s great.”
O’Connor said following the impressive win over Germantown last weekend that she was so happy for the seniors. That feeling hadn’t changed as she was mobbed by fans on the track surrounding Jaguar Field.
“I’m just so happy for them,” she said. “I was not scoring very much tonight and I was having a bad day. I’m just glad I made it in the back of the net and it was late in the match. I wasn’t going to give in.”
Oxford’s tough-as-nails approach made the difference against one of the state’s best defenses. Possession was at a premium in the contest, and it was the Lady Chargers who controlled the ball better in the first half, and put more pressure on the Lady Hurricanes. Still, they only managed the one goal from Mills. Gabby Vincent scored the lone goal in first half for West Harrison, who finished the year 17-4-2.
A late flick from Zoe Scruggs, a senior, to O’Connor was the difference in a goal and overtime, Crane said.
“When the ball went the air, Zoe is my best header, and when she got a head on it, I knew Morgan was going to get free right there,” he said. “I couldn’t be more excited about it. I thought for 80 minutes we were dominating. We had opportunity after opportunity and we just knew we would get one into the net eventually. It was just a matter of time.”