The fact that the Portal boy’s and girls' soccer team both advanced to the State Class-A Elite-8 is especially impressive when you realize they have only had a separate boy and girls' team to be able to play a region schedule since 2017. Wednesday night they ran into a school known for their soccer prowess and were swept out of the playoffs as the girls lost 5-1 to the defending state champs ACE Charter and the boys fell to the No. 1 ranked Gryphons 8-1.
In the girl's game Portal actually shocked the Gryphons as they started the scoring. Kelsi Williams tracked down a loose ball on the left side of the goal and flipped a shot past a stunned keeper for a 1-0 Portal lead less than 10 minutes into the game.
ACE Charter tied the game on a Hailey Whitehead goal at the 23:05 mark in the first half, and then Paige Suk gave the Gryphons a 2-1 lead as she tucked a shot in the left corner of the net with 16:05 left in the half. The score could have been a lot more lopsided as Portal freshman goalkeeper Millie Yarborough had 12 saves in the first half.
The Gryphons controlled the ball for most of the second half and despite coming through with eight more saves ACE Charter added three more goals in the second half including two more from Suk to give her a hat trick and to give the Gryphons a 5-1 victory.
“The last time we played this team they beat us by the mercy rule, but we are so much better now,” said coach Johnny Sanchez. “This is a team that won the last state championship and I feel like we earned their respect today. It’s a whole new ballgame and these girls have improved so much throughout the season.”
With the Panthers only losing one senior in defender Kara Sivils Sanchez is excited about the future.
“We are disappointed with losing but we took a step in the right direction tonight,” said Sanchez. “I feel like we did a great job pressuring up top and made them work for everything they had today. We are an aggressive team and I feel we will be able to get a few more girls into the mix and we will be back hoping tpo make it even farther next season.”
For the Portal boys it was an uphill battle from the start as ACE Charter controlled the ball for most of the game. A deflection in front of the goal was put in by Tanner Moreau for a 1-0 lead. The UAB signee added another goal moments later off a free kick to extend the lead to 2-0. Goals by Henry Terry and Bradford Clark extended the lead to 4-0. The Gryphons added two more goals within a minute of each other just before the half to extend the lead to 6-0 at the half.
With the possibility of a mercy rule ending the game Portal played a lot better in the second half with goalkeeper Luke Shuman making a few nice saves. Jose Sanchez prevented the game from being a shutout as he scored off a nice cross for the Panthers lone goal of the game.
“It has been a great season, but we knew playing the No. 1 ranked team in the state would be tough,” said Portal coach Matt Haddock. “We told the kids after the game this is what we are striving to become. We improved tremendously over last year, and even improved a lot from the start of the season. This was an impressive team we played tonight, and our team never stopped fighting all the way till the end.”
The Panther boys lose a couple of key seniors from this year's 10-3 team, but Haddock is excited about the future for the Panthers.
“Luke and Cason Bishop have been with me since the sixth grade and they really helped us get to where we are today,” said Haddock. “Wilken Washington has been a key member the past few years and Jorey Williams came out this year and started right away. We will miss those guys, but we also have a lot of talent coming back that will hopefully learn from this experience and be even more hungry next year.”