GAINESVILLE — Not even a rain-soaked field could slow down North Hall.
The sixth-ranked Lady Trojans, the defending Region 7-AAA champions, proved why they are still the team to beat with an 8-0 trouncing of No. 15-ranked Flowery Branch on Friday night in Gainesville.
“Obviously it was kind of a mud bowl,” North Hall coach Paul Brown said of the field conditions. “But luckily it didn’t come into play as much as we thought it would.”
From the opening whistle the Lady Trojans (4-0-1, 2-0 Region 7-AAA) were in control of the game. They possessed the ball on Flowery Branch’s side of the field for 36 of the 40 minutes in the first half and continuously put pressure on the Lady Falcons (4-3-0, 2-1).
After numerous failed attempts to put the ball in the net, North Hall was finally able to get on the scoreboard in the 33rd minute when Heather Strickland’s shot on goal was touched by the hand of a Flowery Branch defender inside the penalty box.
Tess Patton took the penalty kick and fired the ball into the bottom right corner of the goal to give North Hall a 1-0 lead.
Less than two minutes later, North Georgia College signee Lara Lane doubled the Trojans lead by tapping in the ball after her first shot on goal was blocked by Flowery Branch goalkeeper Angelica Escarte. The two shots by Lane on that play were her third and fourth shots on goal in the first half.
“I thought I was going to miss that one too,” Lane said. “I’m just glad I was finally able to get one to go in.”
North Hall had three more opportunities to increase its lead in the first half, including hitting the crossbar on two of the three shots on goal.
The Lady Falcons had an opportunity to cut the deficit to one goal as time expired in the first half, but Elizabeth Williams was able to take the ball away from Flowery Branch forward Lindsay Porter as she attempted to get around Williams inside North Hall’s penalty box.
“I think the field conditions kind of had an effect on us in the first half,” Brown said. “That’s the reason we got off to a slow start.”
That “slow start” didn’t continue in the second half, as North Hall continued to display their offensive prowess.
In the opening seven minutes of the half, North Hall put three well-placed shots on goal that led to the third goal of the game.
Alli Wright perfectly placed a corner kick right on the head of Patton, who hit the crossbar on the scoring attempt. Fortunately for Patton and the Lady Trojans, the ball ricocheted off the crossbar and right to Ashley Lackey, who put the ball into the back of the net.
Four minutes later, the roles were reversed and Patton rebounded Lackey’s saved shot on goal to score her second goal of the game.
The freshman Patton played a role in the Lady Trojans’ fifth goal of the game, as her cross was tipped in the air by a Flowery Branch defender and headed in by Bradee Burrell.
Wright, who started the game on defense, scored her first of two second-half goals five minutes later on a counter attack that left Wright one-on-one with Escarte.
Less then three minutes later, Wright put a free kick from 30-yards out into the top-right corner of the goal to give the Lady Trojans a 7-0 lead.
“The breakaway goal was definitely the one I liked the best,” Wright said. “On the free kick I just knew I had to kick it in the upper portion of the back post and it would go in.”
Lackey put the finishing touches on the North Hall win in the 75th minute with her second goal of the game.
Not to be lost in all the goal scoring is the play of the North Hall defense that held Flowery Branch to only five shots on goal (three by Porter and two by Delanna Thomas) and the goal tending of junior Mary Mancin, who recorded her fourth consecutive shutout of the year.
North Hall looks to continue its strong start to the season with a trip to Gilmer on Tuesday, while Flowery Branch looks to rebound from the loss when they play West Hall during the first round of the Northeast Georgia Mountain Cup at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.