U-High girls, Episcopal boys clinch district titles

Having escaped with an overtime win just three days ago, the University High girls soccer team made sure it put away Episcopal in regulation this time around.

Two second-half goals from senior Annabell Simpson and stifling defense helped propel the Cubs to a 3-1 win that clinched the Division III, District 7 title Saturday afternoon.

“I didn’t know how mentally tough our team was until I saw it today,” University girls coach Melissa Ramsey said of her team. “They understand the importance of winning district in order to gain some momentum for the playoffs. They believe.”

However, it was not a clean sweep for U-High.

In the later game featuring the boys teams, Episcopal captured the district title with a 1-0 win thanks to a late goal from junior forward Adam Clausen.

“Sometimes it just takes one little bounce your way,” Episcopal boys coach Chris Stewart said of the win. “We thought it was a matter of time. We were pushing forward for most of the game and felt like we could get one.”

The focus for all four teams shifts to next week, when the playoff draws will be
announced.

“This series between us and U-High doesn’t define the season,” Episcopal girls coach Matt Shelton said. “It does give us a taste of a playoff atmosphere and helps us learn to play from adversity.”

In the girls game, the Knights scored first when midfielder Summer Rhynes picked out Taylor Coleman streaking past the U-High backline. Coleman took a few touches before blasting a shot that beat Cubs goalkeeper Elizabeth Bankhead and made it 1-0 six minutes before halftime.

Three minutes into the second half, University found the equalizer on a set piece.

Taking their eighth corner kick of the game, Cubs defender Jessica Williamson curled the ball into the box and found Abbey Underwood, who quickly laid it off for Madison Morgan inside the 6-yard box. With her back to the goal, the freshman made a quick turn and tapped the ball into the net.

“That was huge,” Ramsey said. “I felt that we needed to get some type of momentum coming out of the half to put us over the hump, and we did.”

From there, Simpson took over, with a goal in the 60th minute that saw her take on a couple of Episcopal defenders before blasting a shot into the upper right corner. She added another one in the 70th minute to dash any hope for the Knights.

“I just felt like I needed to get one in,” said Simpson, who had a game-high six shots on goal. “My first half was pretty horrible. When I finally got that first goal in, I was like, ‘Thank God.’ ”

In the boys game, possession between the teams was even for most of the game with both having chances to grab a lead.

The only difference was Episcopal’s willingness to win any 50-50 ball in the air, something Stewart preached going into the game.

“U-High is so physical so I challenged my guys to beat them at their own game,” Stewart said. “I thought we did a good job of just staying with it and staying determined.”

After a scoreless first 77 minutes, the Knights broke on a deep throw into the box from Carter James. Jostling hard for position, Clausen leaped and got his head on the ball, directing it past University goalkeeper Matthew Johnson.

“It’s tough,” University boys coach Chris Mitchell said of the loss. “They got a goal right in the nick of time. It could have gone either way.”