St. Amant reaches semifinals for the first time in 14 years

Kyle Riviere
Rachel Cretini and the Lady Gators have not allowed a single goal in their two playoff wins. Photo by Kyle Riviere.

For years now, the softball and volleyball teams have been the face of St. Amant girl’s athletics as they won championships and routinely reached the quarterfinals and semifinals.

But on Monday night, it was the soccer program that made an emphatic statement: Don’t forget about us.

The Lady Gators fought off a tough Byrd squad, 1-0, at The Pit to punch their ticket to the state semifinals for the first time since 2004.

"For a coach that has athletes that wanted this from the first minute, this is an awesome feeling,” St. Amant head coach Joleigh Hartman said. “It's not even about me feeling great. It's about them. Day in and day out, they came out and put their hearts on the line. So, as their coach, I'm beyond proud of them. I knew they could do it, but with a great team like Byrd coming in, it's something that I will never forget as a coach."

Nothing came easy for St. Amant on Monday night.

Fifth-seeded Byrd came out aggressive. Their great team speed gave the Lady Gators problems throughout the contest.

In the first four minutes of the game, they forced St. Amant goalkeeper Karli Delhommer to make two saves. At the 11th minute, a shot went just wide left of the goal.

It took the Lady Gators nearly 10 minutes until they were finally able to work the ball past midfield.

Their two best offensive weapons, Adelaide Gaffney and Mya Guillory, each had opportunities to score, but they couldn’t convert.

At the 15th minute, Gaffney squared up and launched a shot from nearly 30 yards out, but it was wide left. At 16, Gaffney made a terrific pass out front to Guillory, but her shot was wide left of the goal.

But Guillory made sure not to miss on her next chance.

At the 34th minute, Sarah Cretini set her up perfectly with a corner kick. Guillory smoked it into the corner of the net to give the Lady Gators a 1-0 halftime lead.

That lead appeared to be in serious jeopardy to start the second half.

At the 45th minute, Byrd attacked the St. Amant goal. With Delhommer out of position, they sent a shot toward the net, but Claire Sheets got there just in time to make a beautiful kick save.

After the close call, St. Amant didn’t allow another shot for the next 15 minutes.

But in the final 20, they went back to attacking the Lady Gator goal. St. Amant had to hold on for dear life.

At the 64th minute, Delhommer had to make a leaping save on a strong kick from 30 yards out. Three minutes later, a Byrd free kick set up a header, but the ball hit the post.

In the waning moments, St. Amant was able to make some big defensive stops to keep Byrd away from the goal.

The game was every bit as close as the final score indicated. Each team finished with 11 shots.

"At halftime, we reminisced about the [Dutchtown] game where we were winning, and they came back on us,” Hartman said. “After that game, we decided we never wanted to feel that way again. We just reminded ourselves that when people come to The Pit, they don't come to beat us. We have the mindset that we're going to do everything to make sure that ball doesn't go in our goal. I give it all to them. They came out and made sure we got the W."

Defensively, Delhommer came up with five saves. Offensively, Guillory followed her four-goal performance in the second round with the Gators’ lone score in the quarterfinal matchup.

"She's just a leader for us. She's one of the girls that if she's on, we're on,” Hartman said. “It's not just about us needing her as a goal; we need her as a player, no matter what. Having her come out and score that goal, it's something I'll never forget. I give all the credit to Mya because that girl works her butt off every day. She stays after it."

With the victory, the Lady Gators are now just one win away from the state title game. Standing in their way will be eighth-seeded Mandeville (24-5), who upset top-seeded Acadiana in the quarterfinals.