Coaches soccer polls: March 19
Early in the Gainesville girls soccer season, the Lady Red Elephants aren’t showing any signs that the jump from Class AAA to AAAAA is going to be an issue.
The 2012 Class AAA state semifinalists are also quickly becoming one of the teams to beat in the new Region 8-AAAAA after defeating Apalachee 4-1 on Tuesday at City Park Stadium in Gainesville to improve to 3-0 in region play.
Senior forward Hartley Carter tallied the first three goals for the Lady Red Elephants (7-1-1), who opened a three-game stretch Tuesday that Gainesville coach Mark Wade called one of the most important stretches of the season.
“This is a real big stretch for us,” he said. “We’ve got one out of the way, now we’ve got two more.”
Those would be against always-solid Winder-Barrow at 5:30 p.m. Friday in Winder and next Thursday at Hall County rival Flowery Branch, one of the region’s consistent powerhouses.
Both Wade and Carter said Apalachee (4-5, 1-3), a state playoff team in Class AAAA last season, was a good test for what’s to come.
“Some of the early games we played, teams would let us get away with a lot of mistakes,” Wade said. “To Apalachee’s credit, they didn’t let us get away with anything.”
The Lady Wildcats stymied Carter until late in the first half, when a through-ball pass attempt from Anna Youmas deflected off an Apalachee defender, but still bounced forward to where Carter could snare it and fire it past the Apalachee goalkeeper to put Gainesville ahead 1-0 with just over one minute remaining in the half.
“I came into the game not underestimating them,” she said. “And I thought that game was a very important game.”
Carter made sure it was a game they won in the second half. At halftime, Wade also altered the alignment to help maintain possession, moving Youmas from her forward spot to the center midfield, an area in which Gainesville had until then been outnumbered 4-2.
The affect of the alignment change, Wade’s first use of it this season, was quickly visible.
Less than eight minutes into the second half Carter took a pass from freshman Dallas Robson and fired it into the goal for a 2-0 lead, which soon ballooned to 3-0 when Carter took a pass from Margaret Carpenter less than four minutes later and finished off the hat trick on other point-blank shot.
Carter had many explanations for the surplus of chances in the second half.
“I felt more confident and I got better balls fed to me,” she said. “And the formation switch was a big help.”
With Carter taking a breather, fellow senior Diana Linares added a fourth goal for Gainesville before Apalachee finally broke through, with nine minutes remaining, on a shot from Apalachee’s Kate Winegarner.
Ashlie Gonzalez saved five shots in goal for the Lady Red Elephants to get the win.
Gainesville started seven seniors Tuesday, part of a core group that led the run at state last season.
GAINESVILLE BOYS 5, APALACHEE 1: Roman Arriaga tallied three goals to lead the Red Elephants to the win Tuesday in Gainesville.
After a three-game losing streak that included games against defending state champion McIntosh, 9-1 Chestatee and fellow region title contender Clarke Central, Gainesville (6-3-1, 2-1) has now won two straight, both against region opponents, to go above .500 in region play.
“We hit a rut playing some good teams,” Gainesville coach Rick Howard said. “The good thing is, this group could have folded in, but I’m proud of their perseverance. Now we’re beginning to put it together, but there’s a lot of work to do.
“I think this group’s got great potential.”
Gage Turner and Omar Campos also scored for the Red Elephants, while Victor Masvikeni headed in the lone goal for Apalachee (3-6, 1-3), which briefly cut Gainesville’s lead to two goals early in the second half after the Red Elephants went to the half ahead 3-0.
Arriaga responded with two goals in the next five minutes, the second putting Gainesville ahead 5-1 with 30 minutes remaining.
Gainesville plays Winder-Barrow at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Winder.