Gainesville High’s boys soccer program took an aggressive approach right from the start against Richmond Hill in Saturday’s Class 6A state quarterfinal match at City Park Stadium.
The top-seeded Red Elephants continually peppered the Richmond Hill goal with shot attempts, made two in the first half and rolled to a 5-1 win with a solid crowd on hand in Gainesville.
With the victory, third-ranked Gainesville (18-2) advances to face the top-ranked Cambridge/No. 6 Greenbrier winner in the state semifinal round Tuesday. By virtue of a GHSA coin flip for spring sports, the Red Elephants will have to travel for their fourth-round playoff match. Match time is still to be determined.
Despite some missed opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net in the first 20 minutes of the match, Gainesville coach Elie Viviant was pleased to see a better performance than earlier in the week when it took two overtimes to beat Alexander, 2-1, in the second round in Gainesville.
“We played better (Saturday), but I’m still not too happy,” said Viviant, who is eyeing a rematch of the 2017 state championship game against Chattahoochee. “I feel like we have enough talent to where we should always be one of the top teams in the state.”
Tied 1-1 against No. 2 seed Richmond Hill (12-5-3) late in the first half, junior Pedro Santos provided a huge lift to the Red Elephants by weaving through a pair of defenders and looping a kick to the back of the net in the 39th minute around the outstretched hands of Richmond Hill goalkeeper Jacob Castle, who entered when starter Donovan Ross was injured midway through the opening half on a collision with a Red Elephants player.
With the score permanently in hand at the half, Gainesville responded with another goal off a header from Cristian Jaimes off a free kick from Armando Hernandez, making it 3-1 in favor of the Red Elephants just five minutes into the second half.
Cristian Rodriguez and Kelvin Turcios added some padding to Gainesville’s lead with goals later in the second half.
Those extra points gave the Red Elephants some comfort after early attempts inside the Richmond Hill 18-yard box were thwarted. Jorge Vasquez had an open look sail wide of the net in the fourth minute, then narrowly missed on a free kick three minutes later.
Jaimes had two header attempts miss in the first half, the second with a solid diving save by Castle shortly before Santos’ goal.
Leading 1-0 late in the first half, Gainesville allowed its only goal when Richmond Hill’s Trevor Blitchington found an open lane to the goal off a header from defender Matthew Minning.
Santos said he was motivated for his nice touch on the goal, believing he was at fault for Richmond Hill’s point.
“All I was thinking was I had to score,” said Santos. “It was my fault they scored that goal on us in the first half.”
Now with three postseason wins under its belt at the friendly venue with a wide pitch at City Park Stadium, the Red Elephants will have to test their merit on the road.
Even though he’s truly taking it one game at a time, Viviant wants to get another crack at Chattahoochee.
“If we play Chattahoochee five times, they probably win three and we win two,” Viviant said.