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Gainesville girls top Flowery Branch in shootout
Gainesville High’s Hartley Carter, right, gets tangled up with Flowery Branch High’s Andrea Contreras as they chase the ball while Carter’s teammate Diana Linares, left, watches during the first half of Friday afternoon’s game at The Branch.
FLOWERY BRANCH — On March 9, Gainesville lost to Class AAA sixth-ranked Lambert 2-1 on penalty kicks.

Two weeks and two days later, the lessons learned from that game, especially for Lady Red Elephants goalkeeper Hong Tran, came to fruition.

After regulation and overtime ended in a scoreless tie between Gainesville (7-3, 4-3 Area 7-AAA) and Flowery Branch, Tran made two saves on penalty kicks and converted the game-winning penalty kick to give the Lady Red Elephants a 1-0 win (3-1 in shootout).

“After the Lambert game, she worked on penalty kicks,” Gainesville coach Mark Wade said. “And that extra work paid off tonight.

“We start six freshmen,” he added. “This was a huge win for this team and for our program.”

The first half was dominated by Gainesville’s offense and the stellar play of the Lady Red Elephants’ back three on defense, which included Liza Carpenter, Sidney Morrow and Catherine Chambers.

The Lady Red Elephants’ midfield also came up big, winning the majority of the 50-50 balls and making sure the offense had opportunities aplenty to get behind the Lady Falcons defense — Gainesville had five offsides called on it in the first half.

Flowery Branch (5-6, 2-3) was held without a shot on goal through the first 20 minutes, and while Gainesville only had three, the
Lady Red Elephants’ offense was able to maintain possession for the majority of the first period.

The second half was a stark contrast, however, as Flowery Branch came out pressuring, finishing regulation with 10 shots on goal.

“Flowery Branch is a really good team,” Wade said. “Cashen (Philyaw) just came back from a knee injury for them, I’m not sure if this was her first game back, but she was just great for them tonight.”

With Gainesville’s defense seemingly vulnerable and the offense unable to get a possession much less maintain one like it had in the first half, Tran was as much the difference maker as she was the key to the win in the shootout.

She had eight saves in the second half including a potential game-saving stop with eight minutes to go in the game when she dove to her left to stop a Flowery Branch header that was all but good.

“Hong is an incredible player,” said Wade of his junior keeper. “She’s got a number of schools looking at her and the film from this game should make a few more interested.”

Gainesville entered Friday night’s contest fresh off a 1-0 win against Chestatee on Wednesday and, according to Wade, the effort his girls showed in that game was a key to the win against the Lady Falcons.

“I can’t say how great (Friday’s win) is for these girls,” Wade said. “They’ve had some setbacks but I think we’re finally learning how to win close games.”

Gainesville returns to action at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday when it plays host to Lumpkin County. Flowery Branch plays host to Johnson in a makeup game at 3 p.m. today.
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