Byrd girls soccer team beats Zachary

ZACHARY — The six seniors on the C.E. Byrd girls soccer team have had successful seasons the past four years, but one thing has been missing from their résumé: a trip to the quarterfinals of the playoffs.

That drought ended when fifth-seeded Byrd posted a 3-0 shutout at No. 21 Zachary on Wednesday to advance to the quarterfinals of the Division I playoffs for the first time in four years.

“We’ve had a monkey on our back,” Byrd coach Lisa Levermann said. “We needed to get this win. I’m just elated. I’m so excited, especially for the seniors. As long as they’ve been here, we were almost there. So now anything can happen, and we’re excited.”

The Yellow Jackets threatened from the opening whistle, dominating possession throughout the first half as the rain began to come down on the pitch.

Byrd strung together a number of early attempts, testinggoalkeeper Hope Yantis before breaking through in the 11th minute. Byrd midfielder Eugenia Fletcher chipped a cross in from the far corner that found the head of Sarah Donahue, bounced and hopped into the net for a 1-0 advantage.

Twenty minutes later, Byrd tacked on a second goal when Abby Inabnet sent a through ball to an unmarked Catherine Ann Hagen, who finished her shot to put the Byrd up 2-0 just minutes before halftime.

“They’re a talented team,” Zachary coach Kevin Tanner said of Byrd. “They’re well-coached, well-disciplined and a great group of girls. We were getting beat in the midfield. Their midfielders were making beautiful runs through. It was just hard to match up with them.”

Zachary did manage to string together a couple good looks before halftime, earning back-to-back corner kicks late in the half. The Broncos tapped their second corner kick short to junior Katelynn Hunt, who dribbled past a couple defenders and fired a shot at Byrd keeper Janelle Melancon, who made the save.

Byrd kept the foot on the gas as soon as play resumed, burying a low crossed less than a minute into the second half. The goal was called back because of an offside call, but the Lady Jackets eventually netted a third goal 19 minutes later.

In the 58th minute, Yantis chalked up one of her six saves, stopping a shot from Fletcher. But less than a minute later Fletcher scored on a breakaway through ball from Hagen.

Byrd racked up 14 shots, compared to four attempts for Zachary.

Tanner said the Yellow Jackets’ speed and quickness made it hard to match up against, and Levermann agreed, saying the wider playing surface at Zachary played to their advantage.

“I thought we were going to play on a more narrow field, so this was great,” Levermann said. “This worked for our style. The ball played a little funny, but once we got used to the way it was going to bounce, then I could kind of hit on my outside speedsters. It was fun.”

The Lady Jackets have now outscored opponents a combined 13-0 in the postseason.