FLOWERY BRANCH — The Lady Falcons entered halftime dominating every aspect of their match against Dunwoody, except for on the scoreboard.
After a scoreless half, Cassidy Elrod and Alex Lee made sure Flowery Branch put up points, as the two accounted for both Lady Falcons goals on the way to a 2-0 victory Tuesday in the first round of the Class AAAA state playoffs.
The Lady Falcons (14-6), a top seed from Region 8, advance to play South Forsyth (Region 7 No. 3 seed), which beat East Paulding 5-0 on Tuesday. The second round match is slated for next Tuesday in Flowery Branch at a time to be determined.
Despite controlling possession the entire half and posting eight shots on goal, the Lady Falcons came up empty handed. But with 15 minutes remaining, Elrod scored off a deflected shot by Lee. With four minutes remaining, Elrod headed in Lee’s corner kick to put the match away.
For the match, the Lady Falcons outshot Dunwoody 18-0.
“We just knew at halftime this could be the last game we could possibly play,” said Elrod, a junior. “We knew we had to pick it up and get a goal in, and that’s what I talked about at halftime. We didn’t want to lose this game because we’ve worked so hard to get here.”
The Lady Falcons’ hard work and preparation was apparent from the match’s start. Consistently, they were getting to loose balls, winning possession and controlling the tempo, spending most of the game in Dunwoody territory. Two breakaways, plus a shot that hit the top post left Flowery Branch empty at halftime, but an advantage had clearly been established.
“We worked hard over the week we had off,” Lady Falcons coach Katie Scali said. “Before the game we said, ‘We know we’re in better shape. We know we’ve worked hard, and we’re not going to be outworked today.’”
In the second half, the Lady Falcons picked up where they left off, attacking the goal and keeping the ball on the Dunwoody side of the field. The aggressiveness finally paid off when Lee’s shot from the right side was deflected and picked up by Elrod, who punched in a shot from the left side.
“It was definitely a relief (to finally score),” said Lee, a sophomore. “But we knew a 1-0 game would still be tough for us to pull off.”
Instead of going on the defensive with the lead, the Lady Falcons continued to put the pressure on, resulting in more shots on goal and eventually a corner kick that Lee and Elrod executed to perfection.
Lee lobbed the ball in front of the goal, and Elrod headed it inside the corner post for the convincing lead.
“We gave up two set plays, so hey, no complaints here,” Dunwoody coach Mike Mey said. “You hate to see games go that way on set plays, but at least it didn’t come down to PKs. I would rather do it in the first 80 minutes.”
Although the Lady Falcons put up a dominating offensive effort, keeper Lauren Dunn didn’t go without a challenge. With Dunwoody inside the Flowery Branch penalty box, she dove in front of a pass to gain possession and end the scoring threat on the way to preserving the shut out.
After missing the playoffs last season, the Lady Falcons — who finished 10-0 in 8-AAAA to earn their first region title in program history — look to advance to the quarterfinals. They’ve been once before in 2009, when they got there as a No. 4 seed.
Scali admitted she knows little about South Forsyth, but has the next six days to prepare. Flowery Branch and South Forsyth have one common opponent on the year — North Forsyth — which the Lady Falcons beat 3-0. South Forsyth won its match 4-0.
“We’re looking forward to another good game,” Scali said. “We don’t expect an easy ride.”