PELL CITY -- Pell City High School’s girls soccer team cruised to a 5-0 victory over Carver-Birmingham in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs at Pete Rich Stadium on Saturday.
The Lady Panthers advanced despite being down three starters -- junior Harbor Richard, freshman Taylor Bell and sophomore Brogan Burrow -- who weren’t available to play due to various injuries.
After a slow start, the squad found its rhythm and applied pressure on Carver’s half of the field, taking 18 shots on goal.
“Really, what I had was three of my bench players starting today,” Pell City head coach Jeff Samoranski said. “I think that they were able to finally get into the pattern of the game. They stepped up and did what they were supposed to do.
“I knew it was going to be a tough game coming in, especially with three starters out, but I think they played well as a team and dominated possession, which ultimately led to our win.”
Pell City took a 2-0 lead into halftime with goals from freshman Saylor Richard and junior Harper Bell. Senior Mary Denman Luker added a goal early in the second half, while Harper Bell and Saylor Richard pushed in their second goals of the day within two minutes of each other to extend the Lady Panthers lead to 5-0 with 15:51 to play.
Bell’s performance came a day after she was announced as a member of the North squad, earning the right to play in the state North-South all-star game this summer.
“I think (Harper’s) the eighth or ninth one we’ve had selected,” Samoranski said. “She is one of the best defenders in the state playing at the center back position and has significantly contributed to the success of this team throughout the last two years. I’m very proud of her being selected to that all-star team.”
For the first time in a playoff game in six seasons, Pell City had a different goalkeeper in the box -- sophomore Hannah Moss. Defensively, the Lady Panthers neutralized any offensive effort from a Carver team that had zero shots on goal and secured an eighth shutout for Moss this season.
“My defense is the same defense I had last year, with the exception of my keeper,” Samoranski said. “Hannah stepped up to play the keeper this year, and she has really gained the confidence of the players … I believe she has been able to fill (the role) of Tori Bruce, who was the goalkeeper for six years. Hannah stepped up and was able to fill that slot. She’s done a very good job.”
Pell City will host Gardendale in the second round on Tuesday at 5 p.m.
“We play Gardendale in the playoffs every year,” Samoranski said. “Last year, they prevented us from going into the Final Four. They beat us in double-overtime (2-1) … The year before, we went (to the Final Four) and not them. It’s a good rivalry that we’ve had with Gardendale these past few years. It’s going to be a tough game, and I’m hoping with my roster at full strength, we’ll at least be able to play very competitively.”