As the clock wound down on the Flowery Branch girls soccer team’s Class 4A semifinal game against Columbus Tuesday evening, players fell into a stunned silence. Holding onto a 2-1 advantage with only a minute remaining in the game, the Lady Falcons (19-3-1) began to collectively realize what they were about to accomplish.
They were about to become the first Flowery Branch soccer team — boys or girls — to ever qualify for a state title game.
When the buzzer sounded the end of the contest, the silence broke.
“I had the ball, and I was about to punt it, but I literally just threw it down I was so excited,” senior goalkeeper Hannah Pimentel said. “Everyone was just hugging each other. Some people were crying. All the emotions just went out there.”
A day after the result went final, those emotions still hadn’t died down.
It’s been a long road for a Flowery Branch squad that has suffered through semifinal losses in each of the past two seasons. But now that they’ve made it all the way, all the hard work and heart break that has led to this moment is starting to show its worth.
“Everything that we went through, all the sprints, all the 6 a.m. practices, it’s finally paying off,” senior Peyton Satterfield said.
Of course, as Satterfield, her teammates and Lady Falcons coach Anel Lilic were quick to point out, merely making it to the final game was never the end goal.
“We were happy that we got past a point that no other team has gotten before here, and that euphoria of winning was great, but today it’s just back to work,” Lilic said. “We know we still have another game.”
That game comes against St. Pius X, one of the three teams Flowery Branch lost to during the regular season. Friday’s rematch against the Lady Golden Lions provides the Lady Falcons an opportunity to win a championship, as well as settle a score.
Flowery Branch lost the first meeting after conceding a goal in the final minute to send the game into overtime and eventually falling in a penalty kick shootout. But that matchup came nearly three months ago, and much has changed for both teams in the interim.
“It’s exciting to get to rematch them, one of the few losses of the season,” Pimentel said. “It’s exciting to come back at them as a completely different team. I don’t know what they’re expecting, but we’re definitely going to be expecting to win.”
Since the first meeting in late February, the Lady Falcons have implemented an entirely new system. Senior forward Caroline Wysocki has also rejoined the team after missing the first part of the season while making an extended playoff run with the Flowery Branch basketball team, and several of the freshmen who were still getting acclimated to the high school game have since become more comfortable.
The second meeting of the teams should be a close affair, but the Lady Falcons believe this time they’ll have what it takes to come out with the win.
“I think it’s going to be something we’re really going to have to battle for and it’s going to be a game of heart and who’s out there to want it,” senior Madi Shewbert said. “But I do think that this team is completely capable.”
As the Lady Falcons prepare for the final game of the year, going through everything from physical training to making sure the group’s lucky rock is stowed for the trip (“The freshmen have the rock,” Pimentel said. “We don’t understand it”), there’s an air of confidence and certainty about the team.
After falling just short in each of the last two seasons, Flowery Branch is ready to make its first ever shot at the state title count.
“I think we’ve just had it in our mind that we’re going to win state,” junior Anna Grady said. “We want to win it. If we finally win it, it’s not going to be a huge surprise for us. It’s been our goal since day one. It’s always been there for us.”