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Flowery Branch girls fall to Johns Creek in 1st round
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FLOWERY BRANCH — In the regular season, one of the many reasons the Flowery Branch girls soccer team was so dominant was simple: the Lady Falcons were faster.

In the first round of the state playoff Wednesday at Falcon Field, a team finally caught up.

“That’s definitely the quickest team we’ve played all year,” said Flowery Branch coach Katie Scali. “We haven’t played a lot of teams that could run step for step with us.”

Region 7-AAAA No. 4 seed Johns Creek capitalized on quick goal in the second minute and held on for a 3-1 win to upset the Region 8-AAAA champions.

The Lady Gladiators (10-6-2) will travel to No. 2 Richmond Hill in the second round. For Flowery Branch (17-2), the season is finished much earlier than the players, or coach, had expected.

“We did things tonight that this group of players has not done in two seasons,” Scali said. “And we just couldn’t get anything to drop.

“It looked like it just wasn’t our night.”

Falling behind early didn’t help, something the Lady Falcons very rarely had to deal with during the regular season.

Less than two minutes into Wednesday’s contest, Johns Creek midfielder Sydney Lurie broke free in the Lady Falcons’ box and bounced a ball to sophomore Emily Clark for a point blank shot to beat the keeper bottom right.

For most of the night it was the only goal. Flowery Branch pressured often and took six corner kicks in the final 25 minutes of the first half, but couldn’t break through until senior Cassidy Elrod’s strike with 5:58 remaining in the game. The goal was sandwiched between a pair of Johns Creek goals by Jenny Kahn and Erin Clark — all three in a one-minute span — to put the game away. It was the most goals Flowery Branch allowed all season.

The Lady Falcons also had to deal with the loss of key senior Cashen Philyaw for nearly 15 minutes of the second half after getting knocked in the stomach.

“When they see her go down, one of the leaders of the team, that shakes them up,” Scali said.

And, as one of the top defensive players on the team, Philyaw’s absence only allowed Johns Creek’s quick counterattacks, usually led by the speedy Lurie, to be more effective.

The Lady Gladiators defense also did its part, holding Flowery Branch far below its average of nearly 5 1/2 goals scored per game during the season.

“The defense played great,” said Johns Creek coach Theo Economos. “They kept their composure.”

Scali knew what to expect from Johns Creek going in, a team that played in a very competitive region in 7-AAAA, where 8-2 was just good enough to make the playoffs.

“Their region is an incredibly tough region, and that’s probably one of the better No. 4 seeds in the state,” Scali said.

Economos said his team didn’t put much stock in the seedings going in.

“We come from a pretty competitive region, so the No. 4 seed didn’t bother us,” he said.

Scali added that she is looking forward to the move to a smaller, eight-team Region 8-AAAAA next season, giving the Lady Falcons more opportunities to play tougher competition than the current 11-team region allows.

But they’ll have to get by without one of the best senior classes to come through the program.

“This group of seniors is really special to me,” Scali said of the six-player class. “This is the first group I feel like I’ve really got to carry through all four years.”

And even with the early exit, Scali can’t overlook what they have done in their time at the school.

“This is still a very special team with what they’ve done over the last four years,” she said. “They’ve probably set every record.”

In the 10th season of the Flowery Branch girls soccer program, the Lady Falcons allowed the fewest goals of any team in program history, won the most matches and lost the fewest on the way to a second consecutive Region 8-AAAA title.

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