Area 8-AAA playoff teams
1. Oconee County
4. West Hall
3. North Hall
The muddled standings of Area 8-AAA are finally clear.
And Tania Perez made sure that the West Hall Lady Spartans were there once the murkiness subsided.
Knotted in a scoreless tie with Gainesville, Perez scored off a hard shot from a pass from Rachel Kline with 6:23 left in the game to give West Hall a 1-0 win and a berth in the Class AAA state tournament.
"I was just thinking, I hope I make it," said Perez, who took four shots in the second half and hit the post in the first half and with 10 seconds to play. "At least we got one goal, so that's good."
The Lady Spartans (12-5, 9-3), the No. 4 seed, join Chestatee, Johnson and Oconee County, which won the area championship with its win over North Hall on Tuesday. The Lady War Eagles (14-4, 9-3), which beat White County, 2-1, on Tuesday, are the No. 3 seed because they beat West Hall last Friday.
Rebounding from that loss made the win against Gainesville even more special for West Hall coach Garreth Alcott.
"This is huge for the program because for the last four years we've shown up on the last day and the best we could do was dent someone else's chances to go to state" said Alcott, whose team plays LaGrange in the first round of the state tournament. "It was nice to play with everything on the line."
Gainesville (11-6, 8-4), North Hall and White County, which were all vying for a playoff spot on the final day of the regular season, were eliminated from contention.
On the boys side, North Hall and Chestatee join Gainesville, which beat West Hall 7-0 on Tuesday, and Johnson, the area champion, as the playoff teams from Area 8-AAA. The Trojans reached the postseason because of their 2-1 win over Oconee County, while the War Eagles advanced because of their 5-0 win over White County.
In total, nine teams from both the girls and boys were playing Tuesday for a spot in the playoffs.
The Lady Spartans, who entered Tuesday's game in a five-way tie for third place, played like a team desperate for a playoff berth as they controlled the game from start to finish, pestering Gainesville goalie Hong Tran with shot after shot throughout the game.
"We dominated that game," Alcott said. "We got a goal a little late for my blood pressure."
The Lady Spartans certainly had their opportunities, but each time they were turned away by Gainesville goalie Hong Tran.
Tran came up with huge saves on two of the Lady Spartans' best scoring chances in the first half, her first coming when Katie Forrester tried to loft a header over her head. But the senior tipped the ball to the left, lying on the ground as the rebound soared over the crossbar.
"We respect Hong Tran as a goalkeeper, and we knew we didn't want this to go to a shootout," Alcott said. "Our aim was to pressure throughout the game.
"We knew this wouldn't be a high-scoring game."
Perez appeared to have the game's first goal minutes later, but Tran dove to her right, nearly colliding with the goalpost as she made the save.
That same goal post came into play when Forrester's hard shot ricocheted of it with 18:23 left in the first half.
Tran nearly scored the equalizer with 4:09 left in the game, but her shot went wide and hit the side of the net.
That was the Lady Red Elephants' fourth scoring chance of the second half, with each one coming up empty.
West Hall goalie Alex Smith prevented all three attempts by covering the ball on breakaways by Hartley Carter and Gladys Campos, who collided with Smith later in the half while trying to chase down a long pass.
Smith and Campos remained on the ground following the play, but both returned to action.
Smith now has a couple days off before the Lady Spartans open the state tournament, which is something Perez knew the team was capable of making.
"We're a great team," she said. "We deserve it."
GAINESVILLE BOYS 7, WEST HALL 0: Yunis Yanes scored three goals to lead the Red Elephants to a rout Tuesday in the regular season finale for both teams.
The Red Elephants (14-3, 11-1 Area 8-AAA) is the No. 2 seed from Area 8-AAA and opens their state title defense against the No. 3 seed from Area 6-AAA.
The season is now complete for West Hall (10-6-1, 7-5).