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Lady Falcons soccer rolls past Rome in first round
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FLOWERY BRANCH — The Flowery Branch girls soccer players still had their last game as a No. 1 seed in the state playoffs etched in their minds.

It was only a season ago, when the Lady Falcons were stunned by fourth-seeded Johns Creek in the first round to prematurely end what had been a highly successful season before the upset.

They were sure not to let history repeat itself this year. Back in the postseason as the top seed once again, Flowery Branch opened the Class AAAAA state playoffs Tuesday with a 4-0 win over Rome at Falcon Field.

Jacy Ramey, Corrie Thomas, Kayla Robles and Hannah Kirk each scored goals as the Lady Falcons (13-3-2) punched their ticket to the second round for the second time in three years.

All of those unwanted postseason memories are out the window.

“From the moment we lucked out and got the region championship (on a tiebreaker), that was one of the first things the veterans said — we don’t want happened last year to happen again,” Flowery Branch coach Katie Scali said.

The Lady Falcons continue tournament play Tuesday with a second-round match against Pope. A win will give them their first quarterfinals appearance since 2009.

“We’ve got a little bit tougher road this year, so they weren’t going to take it for granted,” Scali said. “We were actually going to give them the weekend off, and they asked for practice. They were hungry. I knew they had a much more focused mindset coming in.”

Flowery Branch led 3-0 at the halftime and spent the majority of the first half piling up shots on Rome (13-6). The final shot count was 22-8, in favor of the Lady Falcons.

Ramey’s goal came in the opening 10 minutes of the game, when she collected a loose ball in front of the net and flipped it over the head of Lady Wolves goalkeeper Katherine Kozera.

“We feed off the first goal,” Ramey said. “If take a long time to score it kind of sends us into a dry spell. We feed off that first goal — that’s where our energy is.”

With the offense in full gear, Flowery Branch scored twice in the final 14 minutes of the first half, both on assists by senior defender Alex Lee.

The University of Alabama-Birmingham signee demonstrated her powerful foot with a pair of long passes from near midfield to her goal-scoring teammates. The first was deflected by Kozera, and Thomas scored on the rebound. Robles notched another goal in similar form with 1:36 left in the half.

Lee had three other long-range attempts at the goal itself, one of which bounced off the crossbar and came within inches of scoring.

“We know that every set play we get is an opportunity to score,” Scali said. “She puts it in play every time, and makes it dangerous every single time.”

“She absolutely kills the ball. We just get out of the way at practice, because it hurts if it hits you.”

Kirk’s goal came in 71st minute, amidst a change of strategy in the second half that saw the Lady Falcons play a more relaxed game that allowed defenders to flow into the offensive zone and try their hand at scoring.

Elizabeth Bachmann was still sharp in goal despite more exposure to the Rome attackers, and finished the game with eight saves.

“We made some defensive lapses that we can’t afford later on,” Scali said. “But in a game when we’re up 2, 3, 4-nothing, I tell my defense to get involved. They’re anxious and my defenders want to score.”