Duca’s four goals, one assist lead Chelsea to playoff-clinching win
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor
CHELSEA – As one of the senior leaders on this year’s team, Haley Duca put together a flawless performance when her team needed her most on Tuesday, April 13.
With a win being the easiest way for the Chelsea Hornets to cement a spot in the postseason, the senior forward stepped up and scored or assisted on four of the team’s six goals in a 6-2 win against the Mountain Brook Spartans.
The win gave the Hornets their sixth win in a row and helped them finish area play 4-2 to earn the two-seed out of the region behind top-ranked Homewood, who they beat 1-0 in their most recent meeting.
Taking on Mountain Brook looking to officially punch their ticket to the postseason, the Hornets faced an early test from the Spartans.
Chelsea earned good looks early in the game, but then control shifted in favor of Mountain Brook.
Mackenzie Titus was forced to step up and make several big saves early in the matchup for the Hornets.
After making three big saves, she made her most spectacular yet by laying out to stop a ball after a breakaway from the Spartans.
Chelsea then got a chance on a breakaway from Duca that ended with a corner kick for the Hornets. But the corner missed slightly long and Mountain Brook quickly turned up field.
The Spartans ran the other way and capitalized on a strong stretch of pressure on Chelsea’s back line with a goal to take the early 1-0 lead with 25:53 left in the first half.
That, however, seemed to wake up the Hornets.
Chelsea just missed shortly after on a strong chance inside the box, but a shot sailed just wide left of the goal.
The Hornets then got close again on a rocket free kick from Avery Burleson that hit the cross bar and deflected away.
Chelsea hadn’t scored to that point, but the constant pressure finally paid off 20 minutes into the half.
The Hornets earned a corner kick and capitalized. Duca took the corner and placed it perfectly in the box for Burleson, who headed it home for the equalizer with 20:17 remaining in the half.
Then, less than a minute later, Abbie Johns drew a penalty on a breakaway, as the Mountain Brook keeper was forced into a penalty to keep her from scoring.
That forced the backup goalie to come in and face Duca for a penalty kick. Duca made it look easy with her first goal of what became a special night to give Chelsea a 2-1 lead.
The rest of the half went by rather quietly, but Duca’s night was just getting started.
In the first 15 minutes of the second half, Duca added two more goals to pick up a hat trick and extend the lead to 4-1. Then, Lauren Thompson came through on another breakaway and made it 5-1 with 21:18 to play in the game.
Duca had one more trick up her sleeve, as she came through with her fourth goal of the night with 13:40 to play, which followed a Mountain Brook goal to complete the 6-2 victory.
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