SANDY SPRINGS — On Wednesday night, Gainesville girls coach Mark Wade described soccer as a game of inches.
He did so because Wednesday night, his Lady Red Elephants came up an inch short.
Class AAA’s eighth-ranked Riverwood converted on five penalty kicks — two of which Gainesville keeper Hong Tran got a hand on — to Gainesville’s three to top the Lady Red Elephants 2-1 in the second round of the Class AAA state playoffs.
“I’m disappointed, but we fought hard,” Wade said. “I felt like we had chances in the second half.
“We actually played much better in my mind than we did against Carrollton; we just came up a little short.”
In Gainesville’s first-round state game against Carrollton, the Lady Red Elephants won 2-1 in penalty kicks.
The Lady Raiders struck first and looked to be in solid control offensively in the game’s fifth minute when Erin Woodruff scored after two shots on goal were deflected by Tran.
Riverwood’s offense maintained possession for the better part of the first half, putting pressure on Tran and the Gainesville defense, led by Liza Carpenter.
Tran had six saves on Riverwood’s seven shots on goal in the first half.
“We weren’t ready for their speed,” Wade said. “It took us a while to figure them out.
“The goal we gave up to them was unfortunate. We don’t give up very many that.”
Following Riverwood’s goal and Gainesville’s settled-down state, play leveled out for the duration of the game until the 54th minute when Gainesville evened the score.
After a Riverwood foul, senior Maggie Norton took a direct kick from 25-yards out and converted to tie the game 1-1. Norton’s shot was not only Gainesville’s first score, but the team’s first and only shot on goal in the game.
Riverwood on the other hand, continued to fire at Gainesville’s defense and Tran, notching another four shots on goal — all of which fell into the saves column for the Lady Red Elephants junior keeper — for a total of 11 for the game.
“She comes to play every game,” Wade said. “Of the five penalty kicks scored, she touched two of them.
“An inch or two the other way; they’re crying and we’re celebrating.”
While Gainesville held its own in the overtime period — both teams had one shot on goal and one save — it wasn’t meant to be this time.
“The seniors will be missed,” Wade said. “They are great, exceptional group of girls and I’m going to miss them.
“Hopefully the younger girls come back next season understanding better how this feels and not wanting to feel this way again.”
With the loss, Gainesville’s season is now complete.