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Gainesville girls soccer team breaks 1st-round curse in 4-0 win over Paulding County
Lady Red Elephants will host McIntosh on May 4; time is TBA
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Gainesville's Alden Turner (14) loses the ball to Paulding County's Brooke Fitzgerald (19) during Wednesday night's game in the first round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs at City Park in Gainesville. - photo by Erin O. Smith

The curse is no more.

That’s what was being celebrated just as much as the first-round playoff victory for Gainesville High’s girls soccer team Wednesday night after a 4-0 defeat of Paulding County at City Park Stadium in Gainesville.

The Lady Red Elephants (16-2) have made it into the playoffs the last three seasons and have been dismissed in the first round each time.

“We’ve been waiting on this for three years,” Gainesville senior Alden Turner said.

“This is better than winning a region championship,” fellow senior Margaret Carpenter said. “It feels twice as good.”

With the victory, Gainesville will move on to the second round and host McIntosh on May 4. Match time is still to be determined.

The Lady Red Elephants opened up the game with a relentless pressure on the defense of the Lady Patriots (15-3), but it would take nearly 33 minutes before the first goal was scored.

Caroline Nabb received the ball on the right wing, turned and went around a Paulding County defender with a nice two-touch move. She drew the keeper with another touch toward the goal, then slated the ball into the back of the net with 7:26 remaining in the first half.

The Lady Red Elephants went to the break with the lead in every statistical category. They outshot the Lady Patriots 12-1, had five shots on goal compared to none for the visitors and led 3-2 in corners earned.

In terms of possession, Gainesville led there, too, by an overwhelming majority.

“I think we started off a little hesitant,” Turner said. “We passed a little too much. We passed up chances to shoot when we could have. We took too many touches when we could’ve just taken a one-touch shot, but after we calmed down, after (Nabb’s) goal was scored, we really just got our game going.”

Carpenter said the team was able to come out in the second half much more relaxed after a speech from coach Shelly Garner.

“At halftime coach was just like, ‘Y’all need to chill out,’” Carpenter said with a laugh. “In the second half, you could tell a huge difference. We were playing on the ground, playing more through balls, a lot more comfortable.”

Garner said she could tell the team was a little nervous because “they weren’t playing their style.”

The second half was a different story and the scoreboard showed it.

The Lady Red Elephants won a corner with just over 25 minutes left with Carpenter serving it in.

The ball fell just behind Paulding County keeper to Alyssa Turner at the back post, who then pushed the ball into the net with 24:59 left in the contest.

Nearly six minutes later, Carpenter herself got into the scoring action as she received a pass from Madi Lochstampfor at the top of the 18-yard box and blasted a shot toward goal. The ball deflected off the keeper’s outstretched hands, up and off the crossbar before taking a bounce, hitting the goalkeeper and into the net.

“I was so ready for that shot,” Carpenter said. “Right when I kicked it I thought, ‘Yes, that’s in.’ Then she tipped it. I thought at first it hit the crossbar and went straight down, but then I saw the (assistant referee) and thought ‘Thank God.’”

With the game well in hand, Alyssa Turner added another goal in the 66th minute in a one-on-one with the keeper. The keeper advanced before Turner ripped a shot into the net.

The Gainesville defense held the Lady Patriots to three shots, with only one on goal, in the second half, really stifling any opportunity the visitors had.

The victory is a milestone for those seniors who have been in the program for four years and have seen the pitfalls the first round has offered. Now, they feel as though they have the confidence to go all the way, simply from taking the first one.

“I think this is going to give us that push to go all the way,” Turner said. “I think we can do it and I think we will do it.

“I have so much confidence now that we can do it,” Turner continued. “In the past years we’ve been defeated in that first round and it was just like, ‘Oh, great.’ This year, we were like, ‘We’ve got to do it.’ That was our goal from the beginning was to get past the first round. We did it. Now the confidence is there.”

Carpenter said this season will be the last for many of the seniors, so the first round was even more of a priority.

“In the locker room be fore the game we were just like, ‘Guys, if you’re going to play for anyone, play for us,’” she said. “We’ve got seven seniors. For the majority of us, this is it, so we have to get this.”

Now, they’ll prepare for the Lady Chiefs in the second round.