ESJ topples Destrehan

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 31, 2012



RESERVE — East St. John’s Nyanza Bell was in tears, surrounded by her smiling teammates on Friday night.

The Wildcats’ girls soccer team had just scored a victory in the most dramatic of ways over rival Destrehan. East St. John outkicked DHS 3-2 in a penalty kick shootout after finishing regulation and a pair of overtime periods tied at 1-1.

“Words can’t explain how long it took us to get here,” Bell, a sophomore, said in an emotional postgame scene.

Paris Bridges hit the deciding kick in PK’s, hitting one true just before Destrehan’s final kick sailed high and over the net to clinch the win for East St. John on the sixth round of kicks for each side.

“This was the biggest game of our lives,” said Bridges.

The victory was a must win for ESJ and appeared to put the East St. John girls team in good standing to qualify for the state playoffs for the first time since 2005. ESJ was ranked within the top 32 teams prior to defeating Destrehan; that would be enough for a wildcard.

The win also secured a third place finish in District 8-I for an East St. John (7-13, 7-5) team that won just a game a year ago, and none the year prior.

Destrehan won the previous game between the teams, 3-0, at Destrehan.

“Destrehan thought they were going to come in and beat us 5-0,” said Bell. “I can hardly even talk right now. But we all pulled together for this. We had to win this one.”

Bell, the team’s most dynamic player and perennial leading scorer, scored the first goal in the shootout and moved to goalkeeper for the remainder of the shootout; she blocked Destrehan’s first two scoring attempts and ESJ led 1-0 going into the third round of kicks.

“She stepped up all night long,” said East St. John coach Joseph Perrilloux. “After regulation, she pulled them together and told them that the time for crying was done. We have to make these kicks.”

DHS tied it up there when Morgan LeBlanc went high and out of the reach of Bell.

Both teams suffered agonizing misses in the fourth run. East St. John’s Diamond Edwards nearly had a score but missed a hair high of the goal. Meanwhile, Destrehan’s Hannah McDuffie’s shot was tipped by Bell and deflected off of the crossbar — and over the goal, leaving the teams tied 1-1.

Desonta Burl gave East St. John a 2-1 lead in the fifth round, going high and into the top right corner of the net. Nicole Daigle responded for Destrehan, opting to go left for a score to tie things up.

After five kicks by each side, that meant sudden death; the first team to score without an answer would emerge the victor. Bridges stepped up and came through.

“That was for our seniors,” said Bridges.

Bell scored in the first minute of regulation to give East St. John an early 1-0 lead, one that it nursed until nine minutes were gone in the second half. Destrehan tied things up then on a corner kick that was put in by Morgan LeBlanc.

“We had to fight through a lot,” said ESJ’s Brittany Harding. “It got crazy, especially at the end. But our whole team pulled through. We played so hard tonight.”

DHS had a number of chances in the second half to score, but couldn’t convert on a few clean looks; some sailed wide or high, others were saved by Burl, who played an outstanding game in the goal for ESJ. Another still hit the crossbar, a shot by Breanna Wong in the final two minutes.

“They had a lot of shots and it was very hard at times,” said Burl. “I had to do my best to stop them. And at the end, we came through.”

Each team had chances in overtime as well. A free kick from range for Bell in the first overtime was tucked away by Destrehan for no damage. In the second overtime, Burl made a leaping save on a Destrehan free kick.

“They wanted this,” said Perrilloux. “They really wanted to get into the playoffs and they gave everything they had. Our seniors held everything together when we looked like we might lose it. They weren’t going to let it go.

“Not many people thought we could make it this year. (East St. John Principal) Mrs. (Patricia) Triche, (Athletic Director) Coach (Phillip) Banko, our coaches and our players … they believed. Outside of that, these girls were driven all year to prove they could do it.”