FLOWERY BRANCH — It took less than two minutes for the Flowery Branch girls soccer team to fall behind.
Midway through the second half, it took the Lady Falcons less than two minutes to turn the tables.
Madeline McCarthy and Jacy Ramey scored a pair of goals between 24:01 and 22:49 remaining in the second half to start and finish a rally and lead Flowery Branch to a 2-1 win over Region 8-AAAA opponent Gainesville on Thursday at Falcon Field.
It was the first region loss of the season for Gainesville (8-2-1, 4-1), and it kept Flowery Branch (9-3, 4-1) in the running for a third consecutive region title.
Like last season in Region 8-AAAA, which included nearly all of the teams in 8-AAAAA this season minus Gainesville, the Lady Falcons have already lost to Heritage in region play. So now they can only keep winning to secure at least the No. 2 seed and hope that, like last season, Heritage stumbles and allows Flowery Branch to once again snare the title.
“That’s a big, big win for us,” Lady Falcons coach Katie Scali said. “Having already lost one region game to Heritage, that really helps us.”
And the quick goal by Gainesville didn’t hurt much, as the Lady Falcons managed to control the majority of the game, despite battling against a strong wind for the first half.
“It was kind of shocking, but I think it motivated us to get it back,” Ramey said. “We don’t usually get bothered by something like that.”
In order to get back the defense first had to do its part, and the Flowery Branch center backfield tandem of Kelsey Reed and Alex Lee were key to that end, according to Scali.
Reed was charged with defending Gainesville forward Hartley Carter, who had recorded a hat trick earlier in the season against fellow region opponent Apalachee. While Carter did have a great look at the goal early in the first half and her shot missed just wide, for the most part Reed and the rest of the defense put the clamps on any Gainesville attack.
Lee was also a threat on the offensive end. Soon after McCarthy had evened the score with 24 minutes remaining, Lee took a free kick from far past the box and fired straight at the goal. The Gainesville keeper deflected the hard shot, but Ramey was right there to knock in the rebound and put Flowery Branch ahead for the first time.
“She’s incredibly solid and consistent on set plays,” Scali said of Lee.
Lee tallied the assist on what would prove to be the game winner in a game where both teams had to play against both the heavy wind gusts as well as each other.
“The wind is really bad down here,” Scali said. “But our girls did a good job of not letting the wind hurt us in the first half.
“And I knew we’d have the advantage of the wind (at our backs) in the second half.”
While Flowery Branch brought more pressure and had more chances to score throughout the night, Gainesville had the first chance, and took advantage. Just 1:32 into the game, Gainesville took its first and only cornerkick, a dangerous strike by Margaret Carpenter that Mary Catherine Dempsey fired into the bottom left corner of the goal to put Gainesville ahead.
Despite three corner kicks of their own in the first half and a few more chances otherwise, the Lady Falcons couldn’t equalize until midway through the second half.
With 24 minutes remaining the Flowery Branch pressure finally resulted in a breakdown in the Gainesville defense as the ball bounced over the Red Elephants keeper as she ran out to grab it. McCarthy corralled the ball with her foot and buried it into the net.
Ramey’s shot soon after finished the quick rally, and the Flowery Branch defense stifled any chance Gainesville had at a counter.
With the challenge of getting a come-from-behind win completed, the Lady Falcons now have the challenge of keeping the momentum going through spring break. Flowery Branch plays next on April 12 against undefeated region opponent Loganville.
Ramey isn’t worried about the big break.
“We’re a strong team and we’ve got good heads on our shoulders,” she said. “We’ll be ready for them.”
Gainesville returns to play April 9 against North Forsyth High in Coal Mountain.
GAINESVILLE BOYS 5, FLOWERY BRANCH 0: The Red Elephants cruised to a win in Region 8-AAAAA play Thursday in Flowery Branch for their fourth consecutive win after a three-game skid.
Roman Arriaga led Gainesville (8-3-1, 4-1) with two goals and an assist, Ricardo Gomez had three assists and Wilmar Caldera and Arlis Nunez each added one goal. Gainesville also scored on an own goal by a Flowery Branch defender who deflected a shot by Gainesville’s Gage Turner into the net.
Juan Remes recorded the shutout in goal for Gainesville.
Gainesville will play next on April 9 against North Forsyth High in Coal Mountain; Flowery Branch (3-9, 2-3) returns to action April 12 against Loganville.