By Kyle Parmley
PINSON — The second annual Pinson Invitational would be considered a success on many fronts for the Pinson Valley soccer program.
For starters, the event, which brought in Gardendale, Carver-Birmingham, Huffman and Clay-Chalkville, is a way to bring some attention to the area.
“The event helps bring some notoriety to our school,” said Jeff Mills, a coach on the Indians’ boys’ and girls’ squads.
Most importantly, the round-robin tournament brings in an influx of money, the kind of fundraising needed to ensure that the program can be sustained for the long haul.
“To look at it on a different front, it is a fundraiser for us,” Mills said. “We sell T-shirts and we have an active concessions stand. We did so well last year that we were able to purchase new goals, replacing ones that had been there a very long time.”
The two-day tournament worked out on the soccer field better than anyone could have hoped. Pinson Valley versus Clay-Chalkville was scheduled to be the last game of the weekend for the boys and girls, and prior results made each contest a de facto championship game.
The Lady Indians cruised to a 6-1 victory over the Lady Cougars after victories over Carver (7-2) and Huffman (10-0). Pinson Valley received goals from Jenise Edwards, Alexia Hood and Alabama signee Tori Gann, who scored three.
“Tori is one of those athletes that just doesn’t come around every year,” Mills said. “She’s had some phenomenal training over the years and has evolved into a fantastic player. The University of Alabama is very lucky.”
The Lady Cougars also defeated Huffman 9-0 and Carver 7-1 leading into the game against Pinson Valley.
Clay-Chalkville’s boys flipped the results of the final game, shutting out the Indians 2-0. Alex Lovell and Andrew Chege notched the goals in the contest. The Cougars also blanked Huffman 7-0 and allowed a late penalty kick goal to tie 1-1 with Gardendale.
“Clay-Chalkville wanted it more,” Mills said. “We beat them in an area match the week before, and they just had more to prove.”
The Cougars were boosted by the success over the weekend, coming off a rough stretch.
“Winning the tournament was very important to us, especially since we went into the tournament right after two area losses earlier that week,” Clay-Chalkville striker Josh Almendarez said. “Winning this tournament gives us the confidence we need.”
Prior to the loss, the Indians had not allowed a goal, beating Gardendale 1-0 and Huffman 5-0.
As the season winds down, both Pinson Valley teams are in the same situation. In an area with Clay-Chalkville and Southside-Gadsden, the top two teams advance to the Class 6A playoffs. Pinson Valley has area games remaining against each team and only needs to win one of them to secure a spot in the postseason.
If all goes according to plan, Gardendale is a team that the Indians could see in the playoffs. But the Rockets were there mainly because they would provide the Indians with a challenge against solid competition.
“We knew we were going to have a tough test with Gardendale on Friday night,” Mills said. “Even though there is the potential we could see them in the first round, we haven’t made it yet.”
Clay-Chalkville has not been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention on the boys’ or girls’ sides, but with each team holding an 0-3 area record, the chances of extending their seasons rests beyond its full control. Despite the outlook, Almendarez is happy with his team’s progress.
“This team has worked really hard to better during the season,” he said. “I think playing against teams that are competitive and talented has helped us improve.”
Friday, April 17 could be the deciding day for Area 12, as the Cougars and Indians square off in the final matchup in the area. Pinson Valley also played Southside-Gadsden on Tuesday, needing a single win to reach the postseason.