FLOWERY BRANCH — The Class AAA third-ranked North Hall girls soccer team did everything needed in its 3-0 win over ninth-ranked Flowery Branch on Tuesday at Flowery Branch High.
The Lady Trojans (10-2, 7-0 Region 7-AAA) matched the Lady Falcons’ physicality, outshot them, played inpenetrable defense and got better as the game went on.
"We knew it would be an aggressive game," North Hall coach Nathan Wallace said. "Flowery Branch was going to come out firing and give 100 percent.
"We’ve played against teams though like Greater Atlanta Christian and Norcross that made us work hard the whole time, so we had better endurance. That really pushed us over the edge at the end."
Sophomore midfielder Tess Patton led the way for North Hall scoring its first two goals. Senior forward Julia Matthews added another goal for the Lady Trojans on a late breakaway with 20 seconds remaining in the game.
"Having Tess in the middle is, well what can you say?" Wallace said. "She’s like the Energizer Bunny, she never stops moving. She’s phenomenal."
Senior Mary Mancin had another solid effort in goal recording eight saves to earn her fifth shutout of the season.
"Mary is golden," Wallace said. "The confidence level that comes with having her in goal is good for the girls.
"(Other teams) really have to come up with something special to get a ball past her."
While none of the 11 Flowery Branch shots on goal hit their proverbial mark, it was only partially because of the play of Mancin.
North Hall’s defense, which included freshman Taylor Knight, sophomore Emily Smith, juniors Anna Kate Wright, Karen Carlton and Kimberly Mistarz and senior Bradee Burrell, kept the Lady Falcons from getting clean looks at the goal with the only open shot coming late in the game from 20 yards out.
"Our defense was big," Wallace said. "Flowery Branch didn’t get a good look and Mary is going to stop any attempt at a long shot."
Following a back-and-forth, less-than-settled first 10 minutes of the game, North Hall got on the scoreboard.
A Patton cross headed out by Flowery Branch’s Bri Nickerson gave North Hall a corner kick.
Junior Allie Wright took the corner and played it to perfection, hitting the ball low into the box where a streaking Patton one touched it to give her team a 1-0 lead.
Aside from the miscue on the corner kick, Flowery Branch’s defense, led by Katie Peifer and Nickerson, kept a North Hall offense that had averaged eight goals over its last two games to just eight shots on goal and one score in the first half.
The Lady Falcons (8-6, 5-3) held North Hall’s lead to one for the better part of the second half, but were unable to capitalize on the stellar play of their defense.
The Lady Trojans did capitalize on the play of their defense and a their level of endurance which, accoring to Wallace, his team has a regard for.
With five minutes remaining in the game, Carlton played a chip shot to Patton who settled it, dribbled up the right side and struck the ball across the box and into the left corner of the goal, just over the head of Flowery Branch keeper Lauren Dunn.
Dunn had six saves on the day for Flowery Branch.
North Hall’s final goal of the game came with 20 seconds to go when Patton played a ball through to Matthews who broke away from the two Lady Falcons’ defenders marking her, hitting the ball solidly for the score.
"We knew Flowery Branch would bring a good game," Wallace said. "These girls have played each other and know each other, Davis Middle was their biggest competition in middle school.
"Thankfully the result was in our favor today."
Flowery Branch boys 2, North Hall 1
Memo Rodriguez and John Santos scored one goal each for the Falcons in their win Tuesday night in Flowery Branch.
Santos’ goal with just under 20 minutes to go in the second half was the game winner for Flowery Branch (8-5, 5-3 Region 7-AAA), which moved into sole possession of third place in the region standings with the win.
North Hall’s offense went on the attack in the waning minutes of the game, and it resulted in the Trojans (7-4, 4-3) lone score.
After two shots on goal were deflected by Flowery Branch defenders, Justin Burruss rebounded a misplayed save by the Falcons keeper, hitting it into the empty net.
The Trojans had several chances to tie the game with under a minute to play but Flowery Branch’s defense was too strong.
The Falcons spent the last minute fighting tooth and nail to deflect shot after shot by North Hall, evidenced by a Flowery Branch defender heading a sure goal out before it could hit the back of the net.
Flowery Branch returns to action at 7 p.m. Friday when it plays host to East Hall. The Trojans next play at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Lumpkin County.