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Prep soccer: Lady Trojans cruise to elite 8
North Hall’s Ashley lackey (3) and Stephens County’s Hannah Martin (14) battle for possession during Wednesday afternoon’s second round of playoff action at The Brickyard at North Hall High. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times


North Hall lay coach Jerome Samuels talks about the win and why he set a midnight curfew for his players on prom night.

In a blink of an eye, the North Hall girls soccer team were on their way to making history.

Freshman Tess Patton scored less then 10 seconds into the start of the second half to give the fifth-ranked Lady Trojans a 2-0 lead that propelled them to a 4-0 win against No. 13-ranked Stephens County on Wednesday during the second round of the girls Class AAA state soccer playoffs at the Brickyard.

According to North Hall assistant coach Jerome Samuels, Wednesday’s victory against the Lady Indians (12-4) marked the first time in the history of the girls soccer program that North Hall (14-1-1) has advanced to the round of eight in the state playoffs.

The Lady Trojans will have a chance to make history again Saturday when they play host to third-ranked St. Vincent’s.

“This win proved that all the hard work they’ve put in is paying off,” Samuels said. “This is a special group of kids and they are very talented. We gave them a chance to play as freshmen, and now they are showing a thank you for investing in them because now we have a team that is really strong.”

Now that the Lady Trojans have gotten over the hurdle of the second round, another obstacle stands in their way in the pursuit of a state title. North Hall’s prom is Friday night, on the eve of the biggest game of the year. Knowing that, Samuels has placed a midnight curfew for his players on prom night.

“The big thing is they have to get to bed at a decent hour,” Samuels said. “I felt like 12 was a time that I could live with and a time they could live with.”

While the score indicates yet another dominating performance from the Lady Trojans, the game against the No. 2 seed out of Region 8-AAA was no walk in the park, and according to Samuels, nerves played a role in the early struggles by North Hall.

The Lady Trojans wasted several scoring opportunities in the first half which included three separate occasions that sophomore Alli Wright was left one-on-one with Stephens County goalie Cameron Knowles.

While Knowles was able to stop or alter Wright’s shot attempts, the sophomore forward finally capitalized on all her attempts in the 23rd minute, when Ashley Lackey played a long pass down the right side of the field to Patton, who crossed the ball right on the foot of Wright, who flicked it past Knowles for the goal.

“It was frustrating,” Patton said of all the failed scoring attempts, “but you have to get over it because you know you’re going to score as long as you keep the pressure up.”

Keep the pressure up the Lady Trojans did, and as the second half began all of their efforts came to fruition.

Less then 10 seconds after the whistle blew to mark the start of the second half, Patton passed to Julia Matthews, who possessed the ball long enough for Patton to get behind the Lady Indians defense. Matthews then passed the ball back to Patton, who fired a shot in the back of the net.

“That was sweet,” North Hall head coach Paul Brown said of the goal.

“I was real excited to get that goal,” said Patton, who scored two goals and had an assist in the win. “We needed to score early and put the game out of reach.”

Samuels agreed that the goal sealed the win.

“Making the score 2-0 that quickly said the door is shut now,” he said. “They would have had to score three goals to turn us over and that was unlikely.”

Stephens County nearly cut the deficit to one goal less than two minutes later, when Danae Martin’s hard shot on goal hit the crossbar.

North Hall put the game away in the 60th minute, when Wright’s free kick from 35 yards out got through the Lady Indians defense and landed on the right foot of Bradee Burell, who tapped in the easy goal.

Four minutes later, Wright returned the favor provided to her earlier in the game by Patton, by assisting on the midfielder’s second goal of the game.

“This win boosts our confidence up,” Patton said. “We came into this game hoping to win by a lot so we can go into the next game and play as hard as we can.”

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