LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette girls soccer team got a tough challenge from C.E. Byrd for most of the match, but in the end, the Lions proved that they had the heart of a champion.
Senior Cayla Hebert scored a goal with three minutes left in the match to lift Lafayette to a 2-1 win over the Yellow Jackets to advance to the Division I semifinals. The defending state champions had to fight past Byrd’s physical play to get the win and advance to face St. Joseph’s.
Hebert was open on the right side of the box and put a high shot that went over the goalie’s head, but just out of her reach and into the back of the net.
“I saw the clock and I knew we had a few minutes left, so I just took a chance as soon as I thought I had one,” Hebert said. “I saw the chip, and I was praying that it was going in. I thought (Byrd goalie Janelle Melancon) got a hand on it and caught it, but it went in and I was excited.”
Byrd’s aggressive style worked in the first half, as Kyra Montes put home a shot past Lion goalie Larae Breaux in the 15th minute to take a 1-0 lead. But five minutes later, a freekick from Hebert was tipped in by Sydni Martin to give the Lions the equalizing goal. Byrd did get a couple more opportunities in the half, but were not able to get one past Breaux as the half ended in a 1-1 draw.
“I told them at halftime that the adjustments need to be that we needed to find Cayla or Alexcia Alexander,” head coach Katie Breaux said. “Now Alexcia was being crowded at the top by four girls, so I thought Cayla was playing too much on the sidelines in the first half, so she need to play more in the middle, and I thought that was our key to scoring.”
The second half saw both teams have great opportunities to score early, as Hebert had two of her shots miss the net. But Byrd’s Hope Miletello had a couple of chances to score, including one where she made a move to get past the goalie, but Lafayette defender Darien Wilson was able to get the ball and clear it out of harm’s way. Another shot by Miletello hit the right post of the net later on.
But with the game on the line, Hebert was able to find a way open and put a high shot to pull out the win.
“To be honest with you, I thought the other team had the better game,” Breaux said. “They had two shots where luck was on our side tonight.”
The win gives Lafayette another boost of confidence heading into the semifinals against a St. Joseph’s team that the Lions saw early this season. The Lions have come far into the playoffs with a mix of experience and youth, and have bonded together as the season progressed.
“This is one of the closest groups I’ve been with,” Hebert said. “We all work really hard, the freshmen want it just as bad as the seniors, and we have come together to work hard and to try to achieve that.”
St. Thomas More 7, Neville 0
Nicole Dincau scored three goals to help STM beat Neville and advance to the Division II semifinals. The Cougars scored four goals in the first half.
STM also got goals from Katherine Whitman, Jeanne Marie Bouillion, Haliey Zaunbrecher and Julia Richard.
The Cougars will next face Loyla Prep at home in the semis on Friday night at 4 p.m.