After the final whistle in Friday’s Division I girls state semifinal soccer match, Byrd players were scattered all over the turf of their home field — some face first on the artificial grass, some on their knees with their head in their hands and others simply stood inconsolable.
The 2016-17 season had just come to an end with a 2-0 loss to Mount Carmel in a rematch of last season’s state title game – also won by the Cubs.
The river of tears and the shock wasn’t just about the outcome, but the ramifications for Byrd, a team with six senior starters.
These girls will never play together again.
“My first academy team – several of my girls were on that team, so I watched them grow up,” said Byrd head coach Lisa Levermann, who made her way to as many of her downtrodden girls as possible. “To me, that’s a bittersweet end to their high school careers. It’s heartbreak.”
Levermann’s first academy team, Shreveport United, was formed nearly 10 years ago.
Friday’s showdown was incredibly physical and appeared evenly matched. In a game that tight, a couple of bounces can mean everything.
Halfway through 3 minutes of stoppage time at the end of the first half, a Cubs throw-in deep in Byrd’s end produced a header that caromed off the cross bar and onto the right foot of Jo Galloway, who deflected the ball into the net for a 1-0 Mt. Carmel lead.
The Cubs scored their second goal after they chipped in a rebound that spun out of Byrd keeper Maddie Talbot’s hands at the goal mouth 10 minutes into the second half.
“It wasn’t our night — totally uncharacteristic play in the first half,” Levermann said. “Maddie had some go through that usually don’t. They have our number. We’re get ’em one year. It was tough to have it happen on our home field.”
“We started quick. If we would have scored, it could have been a different outcome.”
Mt. Carmel eliminated Byrd from the postseason for the third straight year.
“We told the girls to be on the lookout for any loose balls or rebounds in the box. That was the difference,” Cubs head coach Pavlos Petrou said. “It was very physical, but both teams are clean. It’s just a hard game.”
The Cubs’ victory avenged a 1-0 home loss to Byrd early in the regular-season.
“That put things in perspective. You have to use the downs to learn,” Petrou said. “It humbled us and the girls kept at it.”
Byrd had its opportunities throughout Friday’s contest, including a glorious chance from Reagan Todd 10 minutes into the game. A header from senior Sarah Tamplin sailed just wide early in the second half, and the Lady Jackets never found a way to send its large group of supporters over the edge.
“The girls, the parents shuttling them back and forth for years – it’s over in a blink of an eye,” Levermann said. “I wish it would have been over next week at the state championship. The worst part is not having a group like that ever again.”