Photos by Robert Smith
Story by Robert Wilson
Freshman Kaitlyn Elliott scored three goals to lead Hartfield Academy to its second straight MAIS Division 2 girls soccer state championship with a 4-1 victory over Pillow Academy Monday afternoon at Madison-Ridgeland Academy.
Pillow jumped out to a 1-0 lead when junior Georgia Caroline Self scored and keep that lead until halftime. But junior Ann Maris Reagan passed to Carson Turner for a goal for Hartfield for a 1-1 tie. Reagan passed to Elliott for her first goal of the game for a 2-1 Hartfield lead. Hartfield went up 3-1 when sophomore Sydney McMinn passed to Reagan for a shot and Elliott followed it for a score. Elliott dribbled through the back line and scored for the final goal.
Hartfield finished with a 15-2-2 record with one loss and one tie to Division I state champion Jackson Prep, one loss to Lamar and one tie with Division I semifinalist MRA. Pillow finished 9-3-2.
“It is a great feeling, mainly for these seniors to go able to go out as back to back champions,” said Hartfield coach Jake Benton, who has now won three straight titles, two girls and one boys last season.
“Carson Turner and Taylor Phillips have now played in five championship games in six years of being in the program. Annelise Bell came over her junior year (from Hillcrest Christian) and had to sit out, but she came in this year being the vocal leader on the field. They will all be missed on and off the field.
“We started the game slow and just weren’t switched on mentally. We were getting beat to the ball. Credit to Pillow and their coach for having them winning 50/50 balls and contesting everything. At halftime, it was about reminding the girls what we’ve been working on for the last four months. Our movement off the ball was tremendous from the start of the second half. The early goal gave us the life we needed to give ourselves faith in each other again. Once we settled into the game and started playing our style of soccer I knew we could pull it off again.”
“Throughout our season my players have clearly demonstrated a major commitment to excellence this season,” said Pillow coach Mary Clare Brock, a 2004 Pillow alumnus who is in her first year as head coach after five years as an assistant.
“Today’s championship game didn’t define my team’s season. I have the hardest, most athletic group of girls I feel in the MAIS. My players all play multiple sports and work hard daily to achieve excellence and as a coach they inspire me daily. The commitment I have to my soccer program will only grow stronger throughout my career. They make me want to be a better coach daily.”