No. 1 seed Loyola Prep, No. 2 Sacred Heart play for girls state title

The Loyola Prep girls soccer team has won 14 straight games and hasn’t lost since Dec. 28.

The top-seeded Flyers (26-3-1) earned the top seed in the Division III state playoffs, and even played second-seeded Sacred Heart to a 2-2 draw on a neutral field this season.

Despite all of that, many still expect the Shreveport team to lose to Sacred Heart of New Orleans on Friday in the state final. That’s because tradition-rich Sacred Heart has won the past three state titles.

Game time is set for 5 p.m. at Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans.

Loyola coach Mark Matlock said he likes his squad’s underdog status. Matlock said it means all the expectations are resting on ASH’s collective shoulders and not his team.

“The pressure is more on them to repeat,” Matlock said. “Their seniors have to win four in a row. So not a lot of people think we have a chance of beating them, and that might be a positive for us.

“No one expects us to win, even though we’re the No. 1 seed. So the pressure is maybe off us and on them.”

Matlock, whose team is in the state finals for the first time in 15 years, said he expects the Flyers to be prepared to play.

“They’re a little nervous about the whole spectacle of the finals,” Matlock said. “But once we get past the first 10 minutes, we’ll be fine.”

Loyola, which played ASH to a draw on Nov. 17 at Episcopal of Acadiana, at least knows it can play with the defending state champs. That gives the Flyers confidence heading into Friday’s contest.

“We played them earlier in the season, so we know them,” Matlock said. “We’re familiar with their players, just like I’m sure they’re familiar with ours.

“I expect a close game,” Matlock said. “We play the same styles, very possession-oriented. They’re going to put a lot of pressure on us, but we’re going to put a lot of pressure on them, too. It should go back and forth.”

The young Flyers feature a trio of potent scorers in sophomores Bailey Freeman (37 goals, 22 assists), Anna Brown (20 goals) and Madeline Mays (22 goals).

Loyola’s defense is anchored by senior goalkeeper Ann Marie Allen, who has allowed only six goals in her team’s winning streak.

ASH counters with an offense led by senior Sarah Martin and a defense that’s allowed only two goals in its four playoff games.

Even though his team is considered the favorite, Sacred Heart coach Tooraj Badie remains wary.

“Loyola is the No. 1 seed for a reason,” Badie said. “We’re not looking past them. We have a lot of respect for them. They run big and fast, and they have very good players.”