FLOWERY BRANCH - Drenched from head to toe after playing through a heavy rain storm in the second half, the members of the Flowery Branch Lady Falcons and South Forsyth Lady War Eagles stood at midfield and watched their postseason fate unfold.
After two lightning delays totaling almost two hours and a thrilling comeback from Flowery Branch, which scored a goal in the final minute and a half of regulation to force overtime, the Lady Falcons saw their season end Tuesday after South Forsyth defeated them 3-2 (3-1 in a penalty kick shootout).
South Forsyth will play the winner of the McIntosh-Glynn Academy game in the Class AAAA quarterfinals on Friday.
"We were confident in penalties," said Flowery Branch coach Katie Scali, who watched from the sidelines as her first two players missed their penalty kicks. "Once you miss that first one, it builds on the next."
While the shootout loss was disappointing, Scali was proud of the way her team battled back from a two-goal deficit in what South Forsyth coach Tom Braun called "terrible conditions."
With ominous clouds in the sky well before kickoff, lightning halted the game twice and sent the teams to the locker room for nearly two hours. That didn't seem to bother the Lady War Eagles (14-6), who scored both their goals shortly after each time they returned to the field.
Mackin D'Amico scored both goals, with the first coming when she rebounded a batted away free kick from Taylor Crow in the first half. D'Amico's second goal came on a breakaway goal with 28:45 left in game, which was less than a minute after the teams returned to the field following the second lightning delay.
"We could only talk so much," Braun said of the delays. "The girls were loose and bored and wanted to get back out there."
Some of the Lady War Eagles took the time to do some homework, and while they were doing that, the Lady Falcons (13-7) were relaxing.
"Having a couple of rain delays helped because it allowed my to rest the starters," Scali said.
That rest clearly benefited Flowery Branch.
Trailing 2-0 and their season less than 30 minutes from possibly ending, Alex Lee launched a perfectly executed corner kick that Jacy Ramey headed into the back of the net to cut the deficit to one goal.
The War Eagles had a chance to put the game away with five minutes remaining, but Rachel Shah's penalty kick went wide of the goal and gave Flowery Branch new life.
As their fans watched from inside the press box at Falcon Field, the Lady Falcons mounted an attack that resulted in another corner kick with less than two minutes to play. With the fans holding their breath, Lee again launched a perfect corner kick into the penalty box and onto the head of Cassidy Elrod for the equalizer.
"We actually don't practice corner kicks that much," Scali said. "We try to keep it simple. We're just lucky we have Alex Lee who hits them so well and we have girls who are hungry to finish them."
With momentum on their side, the Lady Falcons nearly scored off a corner kick again in the second overtime period, but Elrod's header went wide of the goal and set up the shootout.
South Forsyth's Alicia Gant, Colleen Tereniak and Crow each made their penalty kicks, and goalie Anna Hardin made two saves in the shootout to give the Lady War Eagles the win.
"Going to penalty kicks is like a coin flip," Braun said. "It's a tough way to lose."
Morgan Glenn was the lone Lady Falcon to score in the shootout.
Despite the loss, Scali knows her young team showed what it is capable in years to come.
"It would have been easy to give up considering the conditions and the delays," she said. "I'm so proud of the way they came back and fought."