Girls soccer earns D-11 gold champi
Parkland coach Al Haddad has two traditions with his team. The first comes just prior to the game when the starting lineups are announced he and Regan Allsop jump as high as they can to give each other a high-five. After the game, he hands out the inaptly named fun-size Snickers bars to his players.
After his high-five prior to the district championship game, Haddad turned to his coaches and said “I only get to do that four more times,” referring to the four games that the team would have to play to become state champions.
Whether it’s the traditions that work or just the fact that his team is very good, Haddad may be right about getting four more opportunities to high-five his goalkeeper after the Lady Trojans downed Whitehall 2-0 to advance to the PIAA playoffs.
Rachel Laird, who missed most of the season with a chronic ankle injury, scored the game-winning goal against Pleasant Valley in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference championship. She scored both Parkland goals in the district title game.
The two teams were scoreless through the first 60 minutes of play before Laird broke through with her first goal and then tallied the second goal about four minutes later.
“It’s an indescribable feeling,” said Laird. “I’ve been out for a really long time, so I knew that I had to be there to support my team in the beginning when they were winning the games for me. When I came back, I knew that I really had to bring it and bring my A-game and show them that I’m really there for them.”
After the game, the team broke into a chorus of Happy Birthday to celebrate teammate Rachel Medlar’s big day. While the singing was nice, the win had already provided Medlar with the perfect gift.
“I can’t even describe it,” said Medlar.
The win over Whitehall was a different type of game from the two regular season meetings between the teams, both of which ended in 5-0 Parkland victories. Haddad believes that his team can win games in many different ways and that its unselfishness is a key to their success.
“You look at Tuesday’s game,” said Haddad. “Five goals from five different players, and I think the difference is when we play teams that we expect to beat, we stop at eight [goals]. But the big thing there is that the girls are only allowed one goal, so we’re not putting three, four, five goals in on a 16-0 game,” said Haddad, who was recently named the EPC girls soccer Coach of the Year. “Each girl gets theirs and then they have to look and I think that carries over then into the bigger games where they’re always looking for someone else.
“We got two goals from a player who has missed 70 percent of her season. She comes off the bench, she stays plugged in, she understands what’s working and what’s not working, and she goes in and gives us remarkable athleticism and energy. For her to get two tonight, I think speaks volumes for us as a team; don’t try to shut down one player, because that’s going to hurt you.”
Medlar believes that the team is well positioned to perform well in states and that its confidence level is at an all-time high.
“That’s what I think is so incredible about our team,” said Medlar. “We don’t care about who scores or who gets the credit. As long as we get the job done, it doesn’t matter. I think in the EPC tournament, we really started to believe in ourselves and see how much we’re capable of.”
While Parkland has had its eyes on playing in states all season, the Trojans can officially focus on that now that they’ve conquered both the conference and district championships. Four more high-fives between Haddad and Allsop, followed by four more wins would make them state champions. The jumps for the high-fives likely can’t get much bigger, but Haddad’s candy bar tradition can.
“It’s a fun-size for every league game, then it goes to a large for a conference championship and then king size for a district championship,” said Haddad. “The league games are insignificant, they’re just the first part of our plan every year, doing well in the league and then in the league championship and doing well in districts, reaching states and doing some damage there. We didn’t want to look past league playoffs and districts this year, but we have really been pushing the idea of doing well in states, because we haven’t done well there.”