PREP SOCCER PLAYOFFS: Cullman falls to Southside 2-0 in round 3

Cullman’s Ashlei Bryant (8) dribbles past defenders during the Lady Bearcats’ 2-0 loss to Southside Saturday night. (Nick Griffin/The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Cullman Lady Bearcats were back home at Oliver Woodard Stadium Saturday night to host their first ever appearance in the third round of the AHSAA state playoffs and squared off against the Lady Panthers of Southside. Unfortunately for the home crowd, Southside scored a pair of early goals to take a 2-0 lead and was able to hold that lead throughout the second half to leave Cullman with a 2-0 win and a spot in the final four next week.

The Lady Panthers scored in the opening five minutes to take a quick, 1-0 lead and were able to put another goal in the back of the net with just under 22 minutes to play in the first half to make it a 2-0 game. Elley Atchison very nearly scored for the Lady Bearcats in the final seconds of the opening half but couldn’t quite get the ball past the Southside keeper and Cullman went into the half trailing 2-0.

The Lady Bearcats kept their momentum going from the end of the first half and got several good shots on goal early in the second half, but they couldn’t quite find the back of the net and the Lady Panthers held on to win it 2-0.

The loss brings an end to a stellar season for Cullman that included an area championship and its first trip to the third round of the state playoffs in school history. Cullman Head Coach Luke Hackbarth is proud of the way his team competed has competed all season long and has been happy to see their hard work pay off on the field.

“These girls deserve all the credit. When we took this program over two years ago our goal was to build on the foundation the Brown’s built. We as a staff looked at the team and where they were mentally and physically, and we knew that for them to reach their potential that there had to be some breakthroughs. When I was coaching at Oak Mountain in 2012, I was fortunate to be part of a team that was selfless and played together, Scheme was simplistic and sound, and the girls just played their roles really well. We obviously had talent but had zero egos and went 28-2 and won state. That being said, when we discussed our approach two years ago, we knew how important it was for them to see that they’d have to put in a lot of work to get where they wanted to be, but we also knew how important it was for them to truly see their potential,” Hackbarth said. “So, our main goal was to empower these girls and make them believe in themselves and see their worth. Not to make them question every touch or run. It’s not a magic formula. Just play your scheme well, give great effort day in and day out and then work to make the most of the opportunities you get. Results will take care of themselves as will winning. It’s taken a lot to get through to some and we are still building on these principles, but the girls have responded so well and have taken it and run with it. I’ve been able to take a more administrative, GM approach over the program because Megan (Hackbarth) and Jonathan (Knappenberger) do such a phenomenal job coaching, empowering these girls and pushing them to give their best daily.”

With no seniors on this year’s roster, Cullman is set to return everyone next season, so the future is certainly looking bright for the Lady Bearcats.

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