EA claims district championship

Kyle Riviere
Dari Johnson had a key assist in East Ascension's victory over St. Amant. Photo by DKMoon Photography.

The East Ascension Lady Spartans finished off a perfect January by scoring three straight goals at home to slide past archrival St. Amant, 3-1, and claim the District 5 championship.

East Ascension initially fell behind, 1-0, but powered by two Blaire Laiche goals, they pulled away late to bring home the district title.

"That's as close as it gets. I don't think we're two goals better, by any means," Lady Spartan head coach Chris Goodall said. "It was 1-1 at the half, and then we were able to open it up. St. Amant's a quality team. They'll be scary in the playoffs."

The Lady Gators were scary early on as they rode the momentum of three straight 8-0 victories.

They stayed aggressive, and at the 8th minute, Madison Morgan sent a hot shot to Lady Spartan goalkeeper Margaret Britton. Britton made the deflection--allowing Kaylynn Broussard to make a cross to Mya Guillory for the goal.

The frenetic, up-and-down first half continued. Just four minutes after falling down 1-0, East Ascension's Valeria Gonzalez popped the ball up into the air, and Laiche finished with a header to tie the match.

The Lady Spartans had a chance to take the lead at the end of the half. Gonzalez sent the ball out in front to Laiche. Her shot just missed--hitting off of the top post.

Overall, each team had five shots at the goal in the tied first period.

In the second half, the East Ascension offense got a shot of adrenaline. In the first 14 minutes, the Lady Spartans got off seven shots at the goal. Two of the shots ended with tremendous saves by Mary Taylor Gautreau.

On the other end, East Ascension was playing tremendous defense. St. Amant didn't get off their first second-half shot until 19 minutes into the period. That Adelaide Gaffney kick was saved by Britton.

It appeared the game might be headed for a tie when Gonzalez scored late, but the goal was negated by an offsides call.

However, the Lady Spartans went right back to work. At the 68th minute, Dari Johnson was able to send a through-ball out in front to Laiche. Laiche had a free run at the goal, and she got it past Gautreau to give East Ascension its first lead.

Inside of two minutes, the Lady Spartans put the cherry on top. Gonzalez came up with another assist as she dished the ball to Maylen Mire for the goal and the 3-1 victory.

Coach Goodall said that they did consider playing for the tie.

"We talked about it, but we couldn't--not with them. They've mercy-ruled so many people. It's just tough to do that," Goodall said. "We talked about it with our seniors, and we decided that if we were tied with about seven minutes to go and they were pounding us, we'd go for the tie, but they weren't really pounding us. Young girls, they want to get the win."

In the second half, East Ascension out-shot St. Amant, 10-2. Britton finished with four saves, and Gautreau finished with five.

"When you have two great programs like East Ascension and St. Amant, it always goes down to the wire," Lady Gator head coach Joleigh Hartman said. "Given their senior leadership from Blaire Laiche scoring that second goal in the second half, it had them in the advantage, but kudos to the Spartans. They came out and out-worked us."

The loss dropped St. Amant to 9-3-5 overall. Coach Hartman was disappointed with the defeat, but she had nothing but praise for her team's effort.

"It has taken this team since 2003-04 to win a district championship, so to have this team be so young and come just two goals short is phenomenal," Hartman said. "There are no words to express how extremely proud I am of this team, and our senior leadership is phenomenal."

Besides the tremendous game by Laiche, Goodall thought that the Lady Spartans' backups played a huge role in the district championship victory.

"I thought the whole key to the game was our sub-ins. I thought our substitutions really helped," Goodall said. "St. Amant didn't sub out as much. I think we were able to keep fresher legs, and that really helped in the last 20 minutes of each half. Just look at the timing of our goals."

The victory was the seventh straight for East Ascension and improved their overall record to 17-2-3. They finished the district schedule 6-0-1.