0426NHsamuelsAUDListen to North Hall assistant coach Jerome Samuels discuss his team's win against Grady and beating an opponent from a tough region.
North Hall proved that rankings aren’t that important.
Despite playing against a team ranked higher in Class AAA, the seventh-ranked Lady Trojans took out fifth-ranked Grady 2-1 in the first round of Class AAA State Tournament on Friday at the Brickyard in Gainesville.
With the win, North Hall advances to the second round of the tournament for the second straight year.
The Lady Trojans play host to the Stephens County on Wednesday.
The win on Friday came against one of soccer’s toughest regions (5-AAA), where every team entered the playoffs with a state ranking.
“I can’t remember the last time a team from our region beat a team from their region,” North Hall assistant coach Jerome Samuels said. “The teams do very well out of that region and they get a higher ranking, but Grady ended up down by two tonight and we became the sleeper.”
North Hall’s offense struck first early in the first half when Ashley Lackey deflected Alli Wright’s corner kick in the seventh minute to put the first goal on the scoreboard.
The Lady Trojans scored their second goal in the 24th minute off another corner by Wright. Freshman Tess Patton gathered the cross as it passed the net and flicked it over her left shoulder and into the back of the net.
Despite leading by two, North Hall lacked significant scoring opportunities by in a half dominated by more physical play.
“There are some games where you can put the ball down and play attractive soccer and this wasn’t one of them,” Samuels said. “These were two physical teams and no one was going to get time on the ball to possess it.”
The battle continued into second half, where the Lady Trojans almost scored two minutes after kickoff when Anna Kate Wright’s header barely passed the net and out of bounds.
North Hall had another opportunity in the 56th minute when Bradee Burell found herself one-on-one with Grady goalkeeper Lena James, who stopped the would-be goal.
“It was of those games that you had to just grind out a result,” Samuels said. “The girls didn’t look as attractive in terms of the content of soccer, but in the course of playing for a championship, the games are going to get rugged.”
The Lady Knights scored their lone goal in the 78th minute, when Sarah Bufkin sent a loose ball in front of the net past North Hall goalkeeper Mary Mancin, who finished the game with nine saves.
“The next game looks like it could be easier on paper,” Samuels said. “But the ball is round and you can’t go by paper.”