If Mark Dunn had chosen any other year to retire as Chestatee girls soccer coach, his remarkable career would have already been over by this point in the season.
As it stands, Dunn will be back on the sideline for at least one more history-making game.
Chestatee scored three first-half goals Tuesday, including two in a span of 1:39 on the game clock, and earned the program’s first-ever appearance in the state quarterfinals with a 5-1 win over West Laurens in the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs at War Eagle Stadium.
Dunn said that while the team had question marks to address at the beginning of the season, he knew this squad had the potential to go farther than any Chestatee squad had gone before.
“We’ve had some great winning teams here, some great athletes, but I think from back to middle to front this is probably the best, (most) solid team,” said Dunn, who earned his 300th career victory and 100th win at Chestatee earlier in the season.
“They’re playing for their school, they’re playing for history here, and that’s what it’s all about. They keep extending my retirement, so that’s OK.”
Chestatee (14-6) will travel to third-ranked Woodward Academy (12-1-2) for a quarterfinal matchup Friday in College Park. Woodward Academy defeated ninth-ranked Locust Grove 8-0 on Tuesday.
Chestatee delivered a dominant effort of its own against West Laurens (9-10), which never found an answer for the Lady War Eagles’ speed and aggressiveness.
The Lady War Eagles found the back of the net in the 24th minute, following two narrow misses just outside the left post in the first 10 minutes. Freshman Stacey Mendoza played the ball down the right side of the field and sent a cross to the upper-middle portion of the penalty box for sophomore Merrie Barnett, who delivered a high shot into to the right side of the goal to put the Lady War Eagles ahead 1-0.
Chestatee struck again in the 32nd minute when sophomore forward Megan Dew drew the goalkeeper away with a scoring opportunity near the left side of the box, but instead delivered a cross to Anna Abercrombie for an easier goal.
Dew weaved through the middle of West Lauren’s defense and added a goal of her own less than two minutes later to increase Chestatee’s advantage to 3-0.
“We know when teams play that flat four, which seems to be a popular thing to do, we can break it down,” Dunn said.
“We’ve just got to be patient.
“They (our players) finally just kind of gelled with the system we’re using. ... We should have had (even) more goals.”
Mendoza padded Chestatee’s lead to 4-0 after only 4:29 had ticked off the clock in the second half. Her shot from near the right side of the penalty box trailed away from the outstretched hand of West Laurens’ goalkeeper and inside the top of the left post.
West Laurens didn’t get on the scoreboard until Lauren Childers sent a low shot into the right side of the net in the 68th minute.
Senior forward Hope Baxter tacked on Chestatee’s final goal with just under five minutes remaining in the game when her persistent effort paid off with a close-range shot that somehow snuck in a small gap between the right post and a pair of West Laurens defenders guarding near it.
The Lady War Eagles will likely need an even stronger effort Friday to have a chance to upset Woodward Academy, whose only loss of the season came against McIntosh, the top-ranked team in Class AAAAA. But for one night, Chestatee’s girls had the chance to celebrate a history-making victory.
“We came through,” Mendoza said. “It means a lot.”