GAINESVILLE — With all the pressure they put on Apalachee it was only a matter of time before the Lady Wolves found the back of the net.
It took 78 minutes, but Buford got the one goal it needed and defeated Apalachee 1-0 to claim its second straight Northeast Mountain Cup championship on Friday night at Allen Creek soccer complex.
"It was a good, tough game," Buford senior Maria Petroni said after the game. "We’re happy that we were able to get the win."
The South Carolina signee led a high-powered attack of the Lady Wolves (8-1-1), who took 29 shots on goal before Petroni was able to get the ball past Apalachee (5-4) goalie Hannah Holmes for the game-winning goal. That goal was Petroni’s fifth goal of the tournament and it was because of her efforts that she was named tournament MVP for the second straight year.
But unlike last year, Petroni shared the MVP award with Apalachee’s goalie, who despite playing on an injured ankle, stopped 14 shots in the loss.
The one shot she didn’t stop came in the 78th minute when Buford’s Catherine Roadcap placed a perfect through ball to Petroni, who got behind the defense and tipped in the game winner.
"Holmes did an amazing job," Buford coach Marianne Cagle said. "We were extremely frustrated at all the missed opportunities. We just couldn’t finish tonight."
Despite not being able to finish, the Lady Wolves kept an immense amount of pressure on Holmes and the Apalachee defense all game.
The Lady Wolves missed 10 scoring opportunities in the first half alone, including four wide-open looks on goal, and one shot that was nullified because of an offsides penalty.
But Buford kept their composure, something that they weren’t able to do early on in the tournament, when they struggled to get things going offensively against Johnson on Monday.
"We realized how embarrassing as a team it was for us to show our frustrations," Petroni said. "We had a tough time scoring in the first half, but we were able to keep our composure."
Buford’s missed opportunities carried over into the second half, and in the 63rd minute it appeared as if the Lady Wolves were finally able to capitalize.
Midfielder Jamie Clay launched a ball toward the Apalachee goal, and as the ball landed, Holmes and Buford’s Haley Holderfield collided. Holderfield stayed on her feet and put the ball into the net, but the official called a foul and the game remained scoreless.
Three minutes later, Buford made a switch on the field and moved Roadcap from defense to the attacking midfield position, and the move paid off.
Roadcap’s speed and physical play led to more scoring chances for the Lady Wolves, but for every shot Buford took, Holmes came up with a big save.
Her first big save came with 14 minutes to play, as the Lady Wildcat goalie came off her line to take the ball off the foot of Holderfield. Less then a minute later Holmes had her biggest save of the day, as she found herself one-on-one with Petroni, but she was able to dive to her left and get a hand on the ball sending it out of bounds.
While those two saves were crucial, Holmes was unable to get a hand on the game-winning goal.
"This is a good confidence builder for us," Cagle said. "We play in a difficult area and hopefully we can build on this win."
Along with Petroni and Holmes, the following players were named to the All-Tournament team. Buford’s Clay and Abby Leiker; Apalachee’s Holly Dyer and Amber Burgess; Chestatee’s Lauren Ables and Megan Fligg; Flowery Branch’s Delanna Thomas and Lyndsay Porter; West Hall’s Brittany Farmer and Sara Gibson; and Winder-Barrow’s Bethany Murphy and Rebekah Autry.