DENHAM SPRINGS – Denham Springs roared back from an early one-goal deficit to cap its regular season with a 5-2 victory Monday over Central at Yellow Jacket Stadium.
After conceding a goal in the first four minutes of the match, the Lady Jackets (6-13-6) took command of the game and picked up a vital victory heading into postseason play.
Following an own goal against Central that resulted in a halftime deadlock, Denham Springs exploded for four second-half goals. Ayla Zier, the lone senior on the Lady Jackets roster, finished the match with a pair of goals.
“It feels good to end the season with not only one but two goals,” Zier said.
The victory bumped up Denham Springs from No. 26 to No. 23 in the power ratings and into the first round of the state playoffs at No. 10 Baton Rouge High School.
“This win would be a good momentum pick up that the girls need,” DSHS first-year coach Layci Patterson said. “We’re on the bubble if we’re making it to playoffs or not. They needed this, and they went out with a bang, especially in the second half.”
Zier couldn’t think of a better way to close out her senior year than with a trip to the postseason.
“We’re right on that border of either making it to playoffs or not making it to playoffs,” she said. “It being my last year here, it would be really great to end with a trip to playoffs. But if it doesn’t happen then it wasn’t meant to be.”
Central (11-8-1), received a No. 14 seed and will host No. 19 Benton in the first round of the Division II state playoffs, faced DSHS without leading scorer Raghan Walker.
“It’s completely different without Raghan,” Central coach Victoria Eskola said. “It’s a depth issue. I’m trying to work in a person that will fit up there that will make an impact. It’s been difficult because there are a lot of young players that haven’t gotten a lot of playing time this year, and this is the most playing time they’ve gotten. It’s really difficult not having that other player up there.”
Central led 1-0 when Chloe Bourque hit a wild shot from 25-yards. Her shot contained some knuckling action, thus giving DSHS goalkeeper Camille Berthelot trouble reading the ball, allowing it to land in the side netting.
“She’s had 112 career goals, she’s a fantastic player,” Eskola said of Bourque. “People overlook her because of Raghan. I’ve been impressed with the number of goals Chloe has scored without Raghan because what tends to happen is that they double mark her. Chloe’s been able to shine this year because they have marked Raghan. I was worried that we weren’t going to be able to do anything against some of these teams because they would mark Chloe and we don’t have Raghan. Credit to her, she played hard this year.”
A little over six minutes later, DSHS pulled even when Central had difficulty clearing an attack in the box. A Wildcat defender got a late touch on a shot with the intention to clear it but couldn’t get enough on the ball and sent it across the line.
The Lady Jackets then dominated possession, seemingly camping out on Central’s half of the field for the entire first half. The backline swarmed Bourque every time she got a touch and limited the number of quality chances from the Wildcats.
“Our intensity finally picked up,” Zier said. “We realized that we’re capable of competing with any team that we set out minds to.”
Patterson commended the play of her defense.
“The backline did an excellent job of communicating with each other and being the layers that we constantly talk about,” she said. “I was very proud of the back line for holding tight and holding the tight line that we’re known for.”
DSHS took the lead in the second half when Emily Kearley tapped in a cross from Ashetyn Hood for a 2-1 advantage.
“I think that once they put in that second goal at the beginning of the half, they got amped up,” Eskola said. “And we just fell flat. As a coach, you always put that on you.”
After having a penalty kick saved earlier in the match, Zier was able to net her first goal in the 51st minute from close range after a pair of passes were deflected.
“That was excellent,” Patterson said. “I love that she was able to put fight into her position. She was excellent, she was able to stay composed and get those goals in. I’m super happy and proud of her.”
In the 68th minute Alaina Fontenot tacked on DSHS’s fourth goal, a shot nearly completely identical to the one Bourque opened the game with.
Four minutes later Zier slotted home her second goal of the match on a through ball, while Bourque added a goal in the 75th minute.
“They’re a scary team for whoever they draw,” Eskola said complementary of her opponents. “They’re a great team. I think it would be a travesty if they don’t make it.”