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Demopolis plays close with John Carroll

In what could well be characterized as the best loss in the program’s five-year history, Demopolis (8-5, 4-2) played perennial powerhouse John Carroll to a 3-0 defeat Tuesday evening.

John Carroll, the annual No. 1 team in the state and yearly area winner, has made a habit of routing opponents, Demopolis included. However Tuesday, Demopolis managed to validate its playoff aspirations while simultaneously dropping its second area contest of the year.

“To play John Carroll and do that, these kids don’t understand how big that is,” Demopolis head coach Peter Keen said. “That is huge.”

“They are much improved,” John Carroll head coach David Dipiazza said of the Tigers just moments after commenting to a Demopolis player that he could not understand how the team that just held the No. 1 team in the state to three goals also lost to area foe Walker Friday night. “By far the best team they’ve had, a complete team. In years past there were some holes in their squad we could exploit. They don’t really have that this year.”

Demopolis held John Carroll scoreless for the first 25 minutes of the game until it committed its first major mistake. With the ball rolling through the box and headed out of bounds, a Tiger defender fouled a John Carroll forward in an apparent effort to prevent him from getting a shot off. The unfavorable result was a Kelly Getsinger penalty kick that put Demopolis down 1-0.

In the game’s 35th minute, Demopolis’ defense committed another costly mistake and allowed Cory Gonzalez to get deep enough to chip in a second shot and stretch the lead to 2-0.

“Aside from those two mistakes, the defense, the first half, played incredible,” Keen said. “Should have been a 1-0 game, not a 3-0 game.”

Tested often, Demopolis senior goal keeper Rachel Walker continually rose to the challenge in the contest. Her aggressive style and willingness to sacrifice her body for saves resulted in 18 stops and high praise from her opposition.

“Rachel is phenomenal,” Dipiazza said. “She is one of the better goalkeepers we’ve faced all year.”

John Carroll’s third and final goal of the night came early in the second half. With a great deal of traffic between him and the goal, Reece Holcombe shot a ball high over the defense and into the net.

From there, Walker and the defense in front of her did all it could do to keep the game at a three-goal deficit. On one play, Walker dove back toward her left across the face of the goal. Perfectly parallel with the ground, she stretched all the way out and deflected a guaranteed score onto the track that circles the Demopolis soccer field. It was a save Dipiazza characterized as a “masterpiece.”

“They played hard on them, they manned up, they won balls,” Keen said of his players’ effort. “Still some technical things we need to work on, but overall, that is big for the whole team. To me, defensively, we were definitely better than their team, no question about it.”

Keeping the game close may also help Demopolis in its playoff quest. Should the Tigers, who lost to Walker 3-1 Friday night, pick up win by at least two goals in their rematch on April 13, the final playoff spot in the area will be determined by point differential. The tiebreak will go first to head-to-head point differential. If the team’s are still tied at the point, differential against area teams will be taken into consideration. Walker lost to John Carroll 8-0 earlier this season.

“They got beat 8-0,” Keen said of Walker. “If it goes to (point differential), only losing 3-0 is huge for us.”

Demopolis will travel to Calera Friday before hosting Northridge next Tuesday.