Girls soccer coach Katie Scali twice noted how unusual this postseason has been for her Flowery Branch program.
Despite the early departure of freshman Anna Grady, a hot streak late in the regular season coupled with a favorable draw in the early rounds of the Class 5A tournament has put this senior-laden Lady Falcons team on the verge of something big.
After missing the playoffs for the last two seasons, the No. 2 seed Lady Falcons advanced to the state quarterfinals for only the second time in school history following a 9-0 rout of four-seed Dutchtown in the second round on Tuesday in Flowery Branch.
Scali commended a solid core group of eight seniors for setting a certain standard in early stages of this historic campaign.
“We challenged them early on in the season, actually before the season to really unite the team and get what they wanted out of the season, and just move forward the way they wanted,” said Scali. “And I think that’s a testament to them, honestly. ...Those eight seniors coming back and the leadership that they’ve shown has really been impressive.”
The Lady Falcons (12-6-1) will stay put to host sixth-ranked Starr’s Mill (9-9-1), which upset No. 1 seed Paulding County, this Friday, at a time to be determined.
Prior to their 10-0 shutout of Southwest Dekalb in the opening round, the Paulding County Patriots averaged 5.6 goals per match with six shutouts during the regular season. Starr’s Mill beat them in a 2-0 shutout on Tuesday.
Caroline Wysocki, who helped Flowery Branch’s basketball team make school history with a state semifinal appearance in March, has now emerged as the clear spark for the soccer program in recent weeks, despite missing half the regular season.
Scali has had to shift some pieces around in parts of the season, more so in recent weeks after freshman midfielder Grady was lost for the rest of the postseason to an injury. The coach’s decision to shift the Wysocki to the midfield position has been justified in the form of four goals scored by the sophomore through the first two rounds. Wysocki notched a hat trick, and assisted two more scores to teammates Halie Windish (20) and senior Morgan Wadsworth (53) to boost Flowery Branch in this lop-sided affair.
Scali noted Wysocki’s versatility and killer instinct going to goal has made her a sure weapon for Flowery Branch as they look to prolong its run in the state tournament.
“The girls, they really feed off her energy,” Scali said of Wysocki. She’s just a great player for us and they have real confidence in her. So when she plays well, it just kind-of fuels everybody else.”
Scali spent a lot of time re-watching film to make sure she didn’t overlook anything when observing a Dutchtown team that managed to pull off a 4-2 upset of No. 1 seed Wayne County, in the opening round. The coach still felt optimistic in their chances.
The Lady Falcons proved Scali right through sound ball movement in space while holding the Bulldogs’ two most athletic pieces — Kelis Pollock and Tamia Roberts — at bay. The results were what they were — a 5-0 cushion at intermission, and every single rostered player saw the pitch by the latter stages of the second half.
“It seemed too good to be true,” Scali said. “ I felt like we had a really good chance, but we knew we had a couple of really good players that we also had to shut down.
The things we needed to do, and the things I told the girls to make sure to focus on they absolutely did — the success early, and the confidence to finish the game. We’re really glad we were able to get everybody in the game tonight.”
Neither team could maintain possession in the early going, but it was Flowery Branch that came out firing by the eighth minute. The Falcons accrued an abundance of strikes before finally breaking through in the 18th minute. The Lady Falcons twice scored off the rebound in a two-minute span. Wysocki’s first long attempt was quickly picked up by junior Megan Shadbolt, who used her forehead to redirect the ball into the right corner of the net for the one-goal advantage.
A minute later, Wysocki’s intercepted pass and right-footed attempt created off the dribble curved in and out of the arms of the Bulldogs’ goalkeeper, though senior Halie Windish was right there to one-touch it through the corner of the goal for a 2-0 advantage the 20th minute.
Goals by senior Morgan Wadsworth (31, 53), and freshman Glorismel Chavez (33, 55) aided in the scoring frenzy for Flowery Branch.
“I told them afterwards, this is great, enjoy this, but this is unusual. It won’t ever be like this again,” laughed Scali.