For 60 minutes, a young Gainesville girls soccer team opened the postseason with poise.
The 20 minutes that followed weren’t so forgiving.
The Lady Red Elephants gave up five second-half goals in a 5-0 loss to Lakeside in the first round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs Wednesday at City Park Stadium.
The Lady Vikings scored all of their goals in the final 20:09 of the game to surprise higher-seeded Gainesville (12-4-2) and advance to the second round. The 10th-ranked Lady Red Elephants’ season is complete with the loss.
“I don’t want to blame this on being young,” Gainesville coach Mark Wade said. “I think what happened to us was we lost our focus in the second half a little bit, and started being second to most of the balls.”
Five different Lakeside (10-7-1) players found the back of the net, the most any team has scored against the Lady Red Elephants this season. The Lady Vikings will face Allatoona next Wednesday.
When the final buzzer sounded, Wade didn’t let his team dwell on the loss for too long. With just two seniors departing and a slew of starters returning next season, the best is surely yet to come for Gainesville.
“It’s going to be up to them now,” Wade said. “We lose two seniors, which are good players, but a big part of this team is back. It’s up to them — our 2015 (season) starts next week, when we start talking about stuff we’re going to do over the summer.”
For Lakeside, it was another obstacle tackled in the team’s grueling 2014 schedule. The Lady Vikings have played 13 teams with winning records this season, many of them ranked in various classifications.
“We have been playing really well lately,” Lakeside coach Tom Collop said. “Our record’s not impressive, but we have a pretty good side.
“We’ve had a pretty tough season, and that’s the reason why — we want to be able to come out here and compete.”
And compete they did.
The Lady Vikings threw everything they could at Gainesville in a scoreless first half, providing offensive pressure while keeping the Lady Red Elephants’ scoring chances to a minimum.
Gainesville’s best opportunity was an overturned goal by Alyssa Turner in the 19th minute, which referees determined was played offsides.
“The first half we set the tempo and went to the ball hard,” Collop said. “If they run at you, they’re very difficult to beat. But if you don’t let them run at you and you stop them from turning and running at you, they’re not as difficult.”
Lakeside finally broke through in the 60th minute with Ashley Graham’s goal on a pass from Shannon Hagopian, and the floodgates opened the for the Lady Vikings.
Grace Clark ripped a free kick into the net from 25 yards six minutes later, and Brittanie Evans followed shortly thereafter with a header off a corner kick for a 3-0 Lakeside lead.
Fifty seconds later, Hagopian buried a shot in the lower left corner of the Gainesville net.
Megan Arogeti caromed a free kick off the crossbar and into the goal in the 78th minute.
“We came out a little flat to start the second half,” Wade said. “In playoff matches, you can’t let down at all. You let down in a playoff match you’re going to get beat, and that’s kind of what happened.”
Gainesville concludes its third straight season with a playoff appearance. The Lady Red Elephants reached the state semifinals in 2012.