Entering the season, the Wetumpka girls soccer team had not defeated Stanhope Elmore in more than four years. After a 2-0 win against the Mustangs on Saturday, Wetumpka finished off a season sweep of its rivals and clinched the second playoff spot from Class 6A Section 6.
“This is the second time since I’ve been coaching we have made it to playoffs,” Wetumpka coach Jessica Holbert said. “All of these young girls that we have, this is huge to them. We’re still learning as we go but as long as we keep getting better. This win means a lot.”
Wetumpka (4-3-7, 2-0-1) got on the board first when the referee awarded the Indians a penalty kick after a handball in the box. Kiley Sisson stepped up to the spot and converted the penalty to put Wetumpka ahead 1-0 in the ninth minute.
Stanhope (2-1-13, 0-0-3) had the better chances throughout the first half but could not find a way to get on the scoreboard. The Mustangs forced five saves in the opening 40 minutes.
“We’re just going to keep working,” Stanhope coach Dawn Kelly said. “Our problem all season is about getting the ball in the end. We dominated possession in the first half but we couldn’t get the ball in the net so until we can do that, it doesn’t matter how good we are.”
Amairanys Umbrano helped Stanhope take control again in the second half, creating two chances in the first five minutes. Umbrano and Vicki Cortes were keys for the Mustangs going forward but the two combined for just one shot on target in the final 35 minutes.
Wetumpka’s backline was led by Hailey Holbert who got in the way of several Stanhope breakaways and cleared the ball before the Mustangs had a chance to attack. The win marked the Indians’ first shutout since a 1-0 victory against Pike Road on Feb. 28.
“I was pleased with everyone who went in,” coach Holbert said. “They all contributed and played very well. We played as a team and that was good to see.”
Wetumpka added to its lead late in the game with another converted penalty. With less than five minutes to go, Marley Candelaria stepped up and powered the shot past the Stanhope keeper to give the Indians a commanding 2-0 lead.
“Our thing is about starting out aggressive and not waiting before it’s too late,” Holbert said. “Sometimes we die off toward the end of a half.”
Kelly said she was pleased with the play of the Mustangs, especially on the defensive side. Both penalties were conceded by hustle plays inside the box to stop an easy scoring opportunity for Wetumpka.
“Both of them were like that,” Kelly said. “You just don’t really feel like we earned the loss. We have a good team and we have a good core but we’re young and we want to look toward next year. I think we’ll be all right eventually.”
The loss knocked the Mustangs out of the playoff race and they will finish their season with a home match against PCA on Thursday night. With the young core Stanhope has coming back, the team is already focused on the future and getting back in front of the rivalry series with Wetumpka.
“You always want to beat Wetumpka,” Kelly said. “Sometimes you have to put aside those results though and work on moving forward and getting better.”