Star power propels girls soccer past Spartans in playoff rematch


Senior Maddie Massie chases down a loose ball in Mountain Brook’s penalty area. (photo by Russell Dearing).

Down late Tuesday night, Homewood turned to their standout captains, senior Maddie Massie and Sunny Ferren, to deliver consecutive goals and give the Patriots a 3-2 win against Mountain Brook High School and a trip to the 6A state playoff quarterfinals.

The last time the two teams faced off in early March, the Spartans etched out a narrow 1-0 victory at home. Despite the game meaning nothing for playoff chances, it dealt a significant blow to the Patriots, one that all the players felt the need to repay.

Annie McBride lines up to send a pass downfield (photo by Russell Dearing).

Starting Tuesday’s match, it seemed like it was going to be a low-scoring affair, just like the first meeting between the two, with both teams in a narrow gridlock, neither capable of formulating a goal, despite Homewood’s multiple attempts.

Mountain Brook, on the other hand, struggled to generate chances on the offensive end, but when they did, they struck with confidence. On their first breakaway, with merely 10 minutes remaining in the half, the Spartans buried a goal that was called back for an handball in the buildup.

Confusion around the call proved fatal for Mountain Brook’s momentum, allowing Homewood to respond with a Ryan Ezekiel header off a corner kick in the 35′.

The score remained 1-0 going into the break, and head coach Sean McBride’s message to his girls during the half was this:

“We got fortunate, very fortunate, but the game’s not over. A game is never won at the half, and right now, we’ve still got another half to play, so we’re going to do what we do.”

Mountain Brook struck first in the second half, however, scoring their first goal off a direct free kick in the 53’, tying the score at 1-1.

Twelve minutes later the Spartans won a penalty kick for a defensive foul in Homewood’s box, giving them the chance they needed to break the tie. A hard, low shot into the bottom corner of the goal gave the travelling Spartans a lead with about 15 minutes left to play.

Sunny Ferren, matches up with Spartan for throw-in (photo by Russell Dearing).

With the momentum clearly in the Spartans’ favor, chances seemed bleak to Homewood fans and players alike.

However, there’s a sports trope that the true stars shine brightest in the most critical moments.

And shine, they did.

Massie drove down the field on their first counterattack and managed to draw a foul just outside of the 18-yard box trying to split two Spartan defenders.

Annie McBride played the ensuing free kick perfectly into the box and, after deflecting off of several players, found Ferren who stabbed the ball into the net from close range, leveling the game just two minutes after Mountain Brook took the lead.

Coach McBride said the timing of Ferren’s goal rescued his team’s morale.

“Had it been a few minutes later, we might not have scored because our heads would have been down, but they rolled their sleeves up and, well, you saw it for yourself.”

Both teams, now feeling the pressure to pull away and cement their win, stalemated around midfield, unable to break through either back line. That was until Ferren made yet another brilliant play.

The red-haired rocket shot down the pitch, tracking down a long ball played from her back line and gaining possession long enough to be fouled, again just outside the opposite side of the 18-yard box.

It was almost deja vu as Annie McBride once again lined up to take the indirect free kick, landing it directly in a sea of white and blue and then watching as it bounced into the lap of her captain, Maddie Massie.

“To be honest, I don’t really remember,” Massie said after the game, when prompted about what was going through her head in that crucial moment that would decide the rest of their season. “I don’t think I really thought about it. That’s probably why I made it.”

She took one touch, then fired a curving ball straight over the keeper’s hands and nicely into the roof of the net.

That proved to be the deciding factor for the Patriots 3-2 victory as a last-ditch free kick by Mountain Brook was sent high over the goal.

Massie’s finish sends the Patriots to the quarter finals, and coach McBride was pleased with his team’s character to fight back, but was not surprised by their attitude.

“I could tell in practice. I could tell this morning. I could tell when they showed up that they were ready,” coach McBride said. “I thought we were going to throw it away at some point, but they showed tremendous character and determination to get back in, so I can’t say enough good things about them.

“I’m just so happy,” he said.