Continuing a winning streak is one thing, but the Gainesville High girls were playing for much more Thursday against North Hall.
“The theme of this week was for this senior class to not go out without beating North Hall,” Gainesville coach Mark Wade said.
That senior class can thank freshman Hartley Carter for making that happen.
With 12 minutes gone in the second half, Carter took control of the ball just outside the penalty box, split two defenders and lofted the ball over North Hall’s goalie to give Gainesville a 1-0 win.
“I couldn’t really see it go in,” said Wade, whose team has won five straight. “Hartley kind of turned around like she missed, and I didn’t realize it was a goal until someone jumped on her to celebrate.”
Hartley’s goal was indicative of how Gainesville (9-3, 6-3 Area 7-AAA) came out to start the second half.
After a first half in which North Hall (4-7-1, 4-5) pestered the Lady Red Elephants’ defense and goalie with seven shots, Gainesville controlled the start of the second half and held North Hall without a shot until there was eight minutes left to play.
“We decided at halftime that we were going to try and switch the ball better,” Wade said. “It was just a small tactical adjustment and it seemed to work.”
One thing Wade didn’t have to adjust was the play of his defense, which was anchored by goalie Hong Tran, who had seven saves, and fullback Liza Carpenter, who along with the rest of the defense, kept North Hall’s goal scorers frustrated for the majority of the second half.
“You got to give credit to our defense and goalkeeper,” said Wade, who also complimented the play of his three senior co-captains, Maggie Norton, Kelly Mattick and Raquel Castillo.
“North Hall really took it to us for the final 10 minutes. I wouldn’t want to play that again.”
The Lady Trojans, who lost to Gainesville for the first time in Wade’s four-year stint as head coach, had some late-scoring opportunities, including a shot by Allie Wright that hit the cross bar and one from Kelsey Underwood that was stopped by a diving Tran.
“It’s been that kind of year,” North Hall coach Nathan Wallace said. “We needed this one.”
The loss gives North Hall its fifth region loss and could keep it out of the playoffs a year after it finished as the Class AAA runner-ups.
“It’s disappointing,” Wallace said. “You always want to make the playoffs and our goals were set real high because of past years.”
While the outcome of Thursday’s game might keep the Lady Trojans out of the postseason, it kept Gainesville in the mix for the final two playoff spots.
“It seems like we might be onto something now,” Wade said. “We’re fighting to get into the playoffs and those two playoff spots might not be decided until the final game of the season.”
Gainesville will try to continue its winning streak when it visits East Coweta at 5:30 p.m. April 13.
North Hall visits Oconee County at 5:30 p.m. April 12.
GAINESVILLE BOYS 5, NORTH HALL 2: The fourth-ranked Red Elephants rallied from two goals down to remain undefeated Thursday at The Brickyard.
North Hall (1-8-1, 1-7 Area 7-AAA) jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Miguel Morales and Marcos Llanas, but Gainesville (11-0, 9-0) answered with two goals from Merly Velasquez and Irving Salgado, who scored on a penalty kick with 2:06 left in the first half to tie the game.
Gainesville continued its scoring barrage in the second half on goals from Velasquez, Carlos Sanchez and Yunis Yanes, who converted a penalty kick with 18 minutes left to play.
The Red Elephants visit East Coweta at 7:30 p.m. April 13. North Hall plays host to West Forsyth at 7:30 p.m. April 16.