Even the most talented teams sometimes need a break.
The Columbus Severstal Under-12 girls soccer team used two days of championship play and a little bit of good fortune this weekend to win a state title.
Columbus defeated the Greenwood Revolution 2-0 in the semifinals and then beat a team from Hattiesburg 2-1 to take the Kohl”s Cup championship in Jackson.
The U-12 age division featured 16 of the state”s top recreation soccer teams in an eight-on-eight tournament.
Effie Morrison scored both of the goals against Greenwood, and Bailey Springfield scored two goals against Hattiesburg to give Columbus the title.
“I am not taking any credit for any of it,” Columbus coach Derrick Parnell said. “Other coaches from other teams in Columbus helped me, as did parents and the whole soccer organization. I give all of the credit to the kids. We pushed them out there and put them where we felt they would play the best and tried to give them some direction, but they did all of the hard work.”
Columbus defeated South Mississippi Soccer 3-1 and South Madison County 7-2 on Saturday to set up a match against the Flowood YMCA team. Parnell said he was anxious to see his team compete against Flowood, which easily won its first two matches.
But Parnell learned Sunday morning that Flowood was disqualified, which automatically pushed his team into the semifinals.
The disqualification allowed Columbus to get a little extra rest Sunday morning before it had to play what turned out to be the first of two games later that day.
“Everybody else played an early Sunday game to get into the semifinals, so our girls were probably a little fresher,” Parnell said.
Hattiesburg defeated Starkville Personally Yours to reach the title match.
On Sunday, Springfield rejoined the team after playing Saturday in a softball tournament in Tupelo. Parnell said her return gave Columbus a needed boost.
The Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority sponsors recreation and Division II caliber teams.
“We take pride because the team has made great strides in the past couple of years,” said Greg Lewis, who oversees the soccer programs at the CLRA. “It has been a long time since Columbus has been to the state tournament, and even placed. It just shows that we have dedicated coaches and that we have a team that coach Parnell has put a lot of hard work in to make sure the girls jelled. We knew the competition would be tough, but it goes to show what can happen when you have dedicated coaches and parents pushing the program forward.”
In the semifinals, Morrison scored one of the goals on a penalty kick. Ashley Brooks added an assist on the other goal.
Parnell credited goalkeeper McKenzie Harvey for her stellar play in the final two matches.
“She probably was the MVP of the last two games,” Parnell said. “She played a whale of a game.”
Columbus played in three tournaments, winning the President”s Cup, a five-game event in Tupelo, and finishing second in the district tournament two weeks ago that helped it qualify for the state tournament. It lost one match in 14 games.
The team is made up of Morrison, Springfield, Brooks, Harvey, Madison Thrasher, Abby Wilson, Kayla Smith, Beth Phillips, Ashley David, and Brook Younger.
The state tournament was the last action of the season for the recreation team. Parnell said many of the players on the recreation team also play on a U-12 Division II team. He said the higher level of competition the players faced there helped prepare them for the run to the state championship.
“We had a group of kids who were coachable,” Parnell said.
In two weeks Columbus will play in the Division II state tournament.
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.