By TYLER RALEY | Special to the Mountain Brook Magazine

HUNTSVILLE – They say defense wins championships, which and the Mountain Brook Spartans proved that statement on Saturday, May 11 with a dominant defensive effort against Briarwood to bring home the Class 6A State Championship.

Mountain Brook defeated the Briarwood Christian School Lions 2-0 at John Hunt Park, scoring on two penalty kicks to put the Spartans back on the throne in the state of Alabama for the first time since 2013.

For head coach Adam Johnson, it was all rooted in positivity and confidence, and he enjoyed watching every bit of this team’s run.

“That was fun. That was a lot of fun,” Johnson said. “I love watching them play. To be able to see a team so young, to be able to come together and to get the monkey off our back. I lost count of how many alumni were texting me before the game just saying ‘We’re so proud of you, looking forward to it’.’ The community knows what it is, they understand it. Those girls understand it.”

While Mountain Brook made pushes all game, it was its defense that stood tall throughout the game, especially from the performance that goalkeeper Laine Minich had in the entirety of the 2024 playoffs.

The junior did not give up a single goal in any of the five rounds, posting a performance for the ages and one that will be remembered for a long time.

Her play was matched by that of the offense at crucial times in this championship game, but not in the way that most might think.

The Spartans struck in the 12th minute of the first half, when the first penalty kick of the game was awarded. Sophomore Sophie Hicks stepped up big as she had all tournament, putting the ball in the bottom right corner of the net to put her squad up 1-0.

Johnson said he understands that a young player like Hicks is special, saying she played a huge part in this state championship win.

“She joined us in eighth grade,” Johnson said. “To be able to watch her grow from that, to be voted captain as a sophomore and then to step up with so much composure in this game… Rely on the youth. They do it. They get it done. To be selfless enough to drop and take on that defensive role to just button up the back line and not let anything through for the last 20 minutes. That was a battle, the last 20 minutes of a battle.”

Mountain Brook came out of the break with the same mindset of keeping the defense strong, as the game was fast and physical from the start.

However, the Spartans found success again after yet another penalty kick was awarded in the 46th minute. This time, Langston Lilly put on a show for the fans and put it out of reach of Briarwood keeper Catherine Walker, putting her team up with a 2-0 advantage.

Controversy struck multiple times later on in the half, most notably with 16:42 left in the contest, a Briarwood shot that nearly crossed the goal line rolled past the right post completely, causing the players to argue for a Lion goal. The officials called it off, however, and Briarwood Christian remained scoreless.

From there, it was all about ticking the seconds off of the clock and sending the Mountain Brook players, coaches and fans into a frenzy, claiming the fifth title in team history.

The game was fairly even overall, but the Spartans had the slight edge on the stat sheet. They outshot the Lions 16-15 and posted six corner kick opportunities as opposed to the four from Briarwood.

Minich was named the MVP of the tournament, capping off her junior season with this win and four saves to go along with it.

The victory marks the first state championship for the girls’ soccer team since 2013, when Mountain Brook defeated Oak Mountain. Now it looks to prepare to do more of the same in the future, giving the players memories to carry with them for their entire lives.

“Our mantra is ‘right now,’ so we’re going to live in the right now and enjoy this,” Johnson said. “It’s so incredible to see the girls live the experience and learn while they are living the experience. The growth that we are going to be able to continue from here is so energizing.”