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No More ‘Curse’ for Anniston’s Donoho

Donoho’s girls celebrate after winning their seventh consecutive Calhoun County soccer title Thursday, outlasting Jacksonville 2-1 after a penalty-kick shootout at Choccolocco Park. (Photo by Joe Medley)
Donoho’s girls celebrate after winning their seventh consecutive Calhoun County soccer title Thursday, outlasting Jacksonville 2-1 after a penalty-kick shootout at Choccolocco Park. (Photo by Joe Medley)

Anniston, AL – Wakefield ends shootout with decisive penalty kick, and Church makes two saves to lift Donoho girls to seventh consecutive Calhoun County title, slay demons from ’22 playoff loss.

2024 Calhoun County soccer tournament

Girls’ pairings
MONDAY, April 1

No. 4 Oxford 6, No. 5 Weaver 0
No. 3 Jacksonville 9. No. 6 White Plains 0
No. 2 Saks 7, No. 7 Faith Christian 1
TUESDAY, April 2
No. 1 Donoho 5 Oxford 0
Jacksonville 9. Saks 3
THURSDAY, April 4
Championship
Donoho 2, Jacksonville 1 (PKs 4-3)

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
MVP: Erin Turley, Donoho.
Offensive MVP: Anna Kate Wallace, Donoho.
Defensive MVP: Emma Easterling, Jacksonville.
Donoho: Zoe Christopher, Sam Wakefield.
Jacksonville: Willa Kate Walker, Sarah Sloughy.
Oxford: Addison Williford, Rachel Garcia.
Saks: Alonna Crews, Layla Garcia.
Weaver: Lena Johannson.
Faith Christian: Anna Daniel.
White Plains: Loreli McKenzie.

 

By Joe Medley

Donoho’s girls celebrate after winning their seventh consecutive Calhoun County soccer title Thursday, outlasting Jacksonville 2-1 after a penalty-kick shootout at Choccolocco Park. (Photo by Joe Medley)
Donoho’s girls celebrate after winning their seventh consecutive Calhoun County soccer title Thursday, outlasting Jacksonville 2-1 after a penalty-kick shootout at Choccolocco Park. (Photo by Joe Medley)

OXFORD — Samantha Wakefield dispensed with the “Wakefield curse,” and Laralee Church sure learns fast for a second-year goalie.

They penalty-kick shootout that decided Thursday’s girls’ Calhoun County title match came down to those two, and they delived.

Wakefield hit the decisive penalty kick, and Church’s two saves proved decisive as the Falcons outlasted Jacksonville 2-1 for their seventh consecutive county title.

Thursday’s match pitted Donoho, the undefeated top-ranked team in Class 1A-3A, and Class 4A No. 5 Jacksonville. The way Donoho won conjured memories of a 1-0 quarterfinal loss at Whitesburg Christian in 2022.

“This was definitely a revenge game for us, to get that momentum back for us,” Donoho coach Tim Melton said. “It was a tough loss for us, and we haven’t forgotten it. We talked about it before this game and talked about it often, when we practice PKs.”

Donoho lost that match at Whitesburg Christian on penalty kicks, with then-senior goalie Maggie Wakefield, playing with a knee injury, slipping on the artificial turf on her attempt.

“She had never missed before,” said Samantha Wakefield, Maggie’s younger sister.

Then-Donoho coach Jay Jenkins, who retired after that season, attended Thursday’s match and watched from Donoho’s bench. After the match, he wrapped his arms around Samantha Wakefield and declared the end of the “Wakefield curse.”

Thanks to Church’s two saves in Thursday’s shootout, Samantha Wakefield approached the last kick able to break a 3-3 tie. She drilled the ball into the lower left corner, touching off a dog pile celebration near midfield.

“All I could think about was my seniors,” she said. “I thought about, it’s there last county tournament and all of the hard work that they did for me. I just took a deep breath put in the corner like I practice any other day in practice.”

Did thoughts of what happened to her older sister occur?

“It did go through my head, but we practice this every day,” Samantha Wakefield said. “Our coaches will be darned if we get beat by that again.”

Church’s stops in the shootout gave Samantha Wakefield the walk-off opportunity. The White Plains transfer, playing her second year of soccer and first varsity season, handled the shootout with veteran eyes.

She watched the eyes of Jacksonville’s shooters and noticed a divergent trend between eye direction and kick direction.

“The first save I got, that was just lucky, because it came right to me,” Church said. “That second save, I knew exactly, because they all did the exact same thing. They looked the way they were not going.”

Donoho assistant coach Kylie Wells calms goalie Laralee Church after Thursday’s girls’ Calhoun County soccer final at Choccolocco Park. (Photo by Joe Medley)
Donoho assistant coach Kylie Wells calms goalie Laralee Church after Thursday’s girls’ Calhoun County soccer final at Choccolocco Park. (Photo by Joe Medley)

A tearful Church came out of the dog-pile celebration needing a moment. Donoho assistant coach Kylie Wells stopped her and told her to raise her arms above her head.

“I was kind of hyper ventilating, a little bit,” Church said. “I was a little too excited, and she was just helping me calm down.”

The match came down to penalty kicks after two overtime periods. Jacksonville led 1-0 after Willa Kate Walker’s first-half goal, and Donoho’s Anna Kate Wallace tied it with 36 minutes left in the second half.

Jacksonville goalie Kelsie Sigler made one save in the penalty kick shootout. She and Emma Easterling held a potent scoring team to one goal in regulation.

“We played a very good team, and I think we rose to the occasion,” Jacksonville coach Kim Darby said. “We passed well. We moved well. It was a total team effort.

“Sometimes, you just don’t come out on the right end of the score.”

Donoho’s Lauren Wigley comforts Jacksonville’s Lexi Page after their epic Calhoun County championship match Thursday at Choccolocco Park (Photo by Joe Medley)
Donoho’s Lauren Wigley comforts Jacksonville’s Lexi Page after their epic Calhoun County championship match Thursday at Choccolocco Park (Photo by Joe Medley)

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