GAINESVILLE — If their first game is any indicator, Buford will have no problem repeating as the Northeast Georgia Mountain Cup champions.
University of South Carolina signee, and 2007 tournament MVP Maria Petroni scored two goals and had one assist in leading the Lady Wolves to a 7-1 victory against West Hall on Monday during the first day of the tournament at Allen Creek Soccer Complex.
“I’m excited that we were able to start off on a winning note,” Buford coach Marianne Cagle said. “We expected to come out and play strong and that’s what we did.”
While the Lady Wolves (6-1-1, 3-0 Area 11) finished strong, the Lady Spartans (3-3-1, 0-2 Area 7-AAA) gave Class AA/A’s third-ranked team all they could handle early in the game.
For the first nine minutes of the game, West Hall controlled the ball more, won more headers and seemed more poised then their opponents. But things suddenly took a turn for the worse for West Hall.
In the ninth minute, Petroni streaked toward goal hoping to put the Lady Wolves on the scoreboard, but instead of getting to the ball, her foot inadvertently hit the head of West Hall goalie Ashlee Morris who was diving to stop the ball.
Morris did make the stop, but she was forced to come out of the game with an apparent concussion.
“It was completely accidental,” West Hall coach Gareth Alliot said. “She probably has a concussion and will need a few stitches, but she’ll be OK.”
With West Hall’s starting goalkeeper out for the remainder of the game, Alliot called on defender Courtney Cox to take over as goalkeeper, and before she stepped on the field, the coach gave her a simple message, “just do your very best.”
Cox was immediately tested by the vaunted Buford offense, and at the 22-minute mark, the Lady Wolves got on the scoreboard when Jacey Chandler redirected a cross from Haley Holderfield.
Buford kept the pressure on the new goalkeeper, and with 6:49 remaining in the half, Lindsay Baxter played a long ball in the middle of the field and Petroni outran the West Hall defense, juked right and tapped the ball past an off-balance Cox.
A minute later, Justine Clay took a free kick from 40-yards out and Petroni headed the ball into the back of the goal to give the Lady Wolves a 3-0 lead at halftime.
“It’s never easy as a substitute goalie,” Alliot said. “And when you have to come in and face one of the best teams in the state it’s scary.”
The Lady Wolves kept the scoring barrage going in the second half, and with 15:37 left in the game Baxter took a shot from 25 yards out that bounced off of Cox and went into the goal.
Buford’s next goal was a thing of beauty as Petroni and Catherine Roadcap executed a perfect give-and-go that ended with Roadcap skirting the ball past Cox that gave Buford a commanding 5-0 lead.
The Lady Spartans found themselves down 6-0 after Abby Leiker’s shot off the crossbar was rebounded and put in goal by Holderfield.
West Hall was finally able to get on the board with 22 seconds left to play as Brittany Foster’s low shot on goal took a strange hop and bounced over Buford goalie Rachel Kaplan to prevent the shutout.
“We deserved that goal,” Alliot said. “For all our endeavors, anyone watching this game would say that we deserved it.”
Buford apparently didn’t feel like they deserved the goal, as Roadcap took a pass off of the restart, raced past every Lady Spartan in her way and fired a shot past Cox for her second goal of the game.
In the next game of the Northeast Georgia Mountain Cup, West Hall will play Flowery Branch at 5:30 p.m. today at Chestatee High and Buford will play Flowery Branch at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Allen Creek.