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Gainesville edges Riverwood in OT
Red Elephants headed to third round of state soccer tournament
Irving Salgado of Gainesville, works the ball past Spencer Stockton of Riverwood. - photo by Tom Reed

With the game on the line late in the second half, Gainesville High’s goalie Marco Monreal stood on his own end line and rocked from side to side as Riverwood’s Arturo Cruz stood over the ball.

With the game tied 1-1, the Raiders had just been awarded a penalty kick with two minutes and 30 seconds left to play and Cruz was elected to take the shot.

As the referee blew his whistle, Monreal took one look at Cruz, dove to his right and saved the shot and Gainesville’s undefeated season.

With momentum on their side, No. 3 Gainesville (16-0) scored two goals in overtime and advanced to the third round of the Class AAA state tournament with a 3-1 win over No. 10 Riverwood (14-5-1) on Tuesday at City Park.

“The game’s over if it’s in,” said Gainesville junior Monish Lahiry, whose team will play at Perry in the third round Friday. “For any goalie in this atmosphere to stop a point-blank shot from 12 yards out is just crazy.

“He’s the man of the match.”

If Monreal, who had six saves, was the man of the match, Lahiry finished a close second.

Not only was Lahiry asked to mark Riverwood’s highly skilled forwards, Cruz and Wally Fofana, but he scored the equalizing goal on a penalty kick in the second half and assisted on the game-winner that was scored by Irving Salgado.

“My mindset all season has been to lock it down,” Lahiry said. “It was tough getting into the flow on offense, but I felt that we had more momentum when I was up there.

“It was a whole team effort,” Lahiry added. “We didn’t quit.”

Especially Salgado, who played the majority of the second half after chipping a tooth on an inadvertent elbow to his face.

While the pain initially bothered Salgado, he soon forgot about it once he scored the game-winner with 41 seconds left in the first overtime period.

“I was so happy, I actually smiled,” Salgado said. “I was thinking so much about the tooth, but I saw an opening and took the shot.”

That shot was Gainesville’s 21st of the game but the first to go in since Lahiry’s penalty kick with 17:03 left in the second half.

“The first half was frustrating,” Lahiry said. “We had all the momentum but missed several opportunities.”

Gainesville coach Rick Howard was equally as frustrated and was ejected after receiving a red card with 1:30 left to play in regulation.

“That gave us more momentum,” Lahiry said. “We wanted to win it much more after that.”

That wasn’t evident, as Gainesville scored again in the second overtime period when Russ Puckett found Merly Velasquez for the team’s third goal.

“It’s always hard to play without your coach, but we have a great assistant in coach (Elie) Viviant.”

Per Georgia High School Association rules, Gainesville will be without Howard for its next two games.

Riverwood got on the board with a goal by Cruz with 25:17 left in the second half. The Raiders had several other scoring opportunities, including two one-on-one chances between Fofana and Monreal, who came up with a save on each of those chances.

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