Oak Mountain beats Vestavia to advance to state championship game
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor
HUNTSVILLE – After last year ended with Oak Mountain beating Vestavia Hills 4-0 the day before COVID-19 hit, the Eagles considered themselves state champions, but it wasn’t official.
Now, after taking down the Rebels in a top-three matchup in the Final Four at John Hunt Park in Huntsville on May 7, the Eagles will have a chance to officially become state champions.
In a tight matchup with the Rebels, Oak Mountain’s Kierson McDonald made the difference in a 1-0 win thanks to a second-half goal at the 23:25 mark.
“Last year when the season was cut short, we had just won 4-0 against Vestavia and it was really hard on all of us to end the season after that, especially for our seniors,” McDonald said of the motivation for this year’s team.
And for this year’s team to do it against Vestavia Hills, a team the Eagles consider one of the best and a rival, made it that much more sweet for them.
“I’ve been playing here four years now, and every single time we’ve gotten out of the playoffs it’s been because of Vestavia,” McDonald said. “We’re just so ecstatic for this and it’s such a big win for our team because no one on this team has ever made it to the Final Four before so we’re just so happy.”
Oak Mountain had chance-after-chance throughout the first half, outplaying the Rebels, but the Eagles never could convert in a scoreless first 40 minutes.
But in the second half, the constant pressure finally paid off.
McDonald earned a free kick, but admittedly didn’t get it clean. The keeper, however, let it go out, which led to a corner, and that’s when McDonald left her mark on the semifinal win.
Raylie Neely took the corner kick, which was eventually won by Juliette Williams.
“Raleigh hit a really good corner and Juliette won it back,” McDonald said. “I saw her right there and saw there was no one on me and told her to lay it off, and I just hit it as hard as I could into the goal.”
Vestavia got some decent looks over the next few minutes, but the real threats came with 8:30 left and the in the final minute.
The Rebels got a free kick just a few yards inside a corner kick with 8:32 to play, but couldn’t convert.
Then, pressing down a goal with just more than a minute to play, they got another kick just outside the penalty box on the right side, but the Eagles cleared it after a battle.
Then, in the final 10 seconds, Vestavia got into the box with its best chance of the game as Oak Mountain keeper Kate Murray got tangled in traffic and left the goal open.
The ball, however, was eventually booted out of danger as the final seconds ticked off to preserve the win for Oak Mountain.
Murray did make two great saves on free kicks from the Rebels, and was stellar at directing traffic during the majority of Vestavia’s opportunities which led to a clean sheet.
Oak Mountain set the tone in the first half, with several chances to score, but the Eagles couldn’t convert any of them into goals. They did, however, gain the momentum going into the break, which carried into the second half of a flawless game.
The Eagles will now take on Enterprise in the Class 7A state championship tomorrow at noon.