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VIDEO: Estrada's penalty kick spurs No. 7 North Hall girls soccer team past Eagle's Landing, 1-0
Lady Trojans will next play top-ranked Marist School in Class AAAA quarterfinals
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North Hall's Alexis Flanagan (17) pushes the ball downfield while being guarded by Eagles Landing's Riti Desai (9) during Wednesday night's game at North Hall High School. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Katie Estrada converted a penalty kick with 11 minutes to play in the second half and North Hall's girls soccer team withstood a late barrage by Eagle's Landing Wednesday evening to earn a 1-0 win and book a spot in Saturday's Class AAAA quarterfinal. 

Estrada secured her 27th goal of the season, none more important than this one, that sent the seventh-ranked Lady Trojans (11-7) to their first trip to the state quarterfinals since 2009. The last time North Hall made it this far, the Lady Trojans earned a spot in the title game. 

North Hall will next play at top-ranked Marist, who beat Upson-Lee 8-0 on Wednesday. 

“It feels amazing,” said Estrada. “I’m so happy to be a part of this team, to do what we’ve done … We fight to the end, whether we’re winning or losing.”

North Hall was awarded the critical spot-kick in the 69th minute when an Eagle’s Landing defender was called for a handball inside the penalty box following Mallory Land’s shot on goal. Estrada then slid her shot under Golden Eagles goalkeeper Kameran Proby and into the bottom left corner of the net.

Try as they did, Eagle’s Landing (11-5) couldn’t muster an answer through sprightly striker Taralan Matthews, who recorded six of the Golden Eagles’ 11 shots on the night. And even when North Hall striker Bekah Stephens was briefly forced into action in goal when starting keeper Kadie Sullens had to come off for treatment, the North Hall defense stood firm to earn its seventh shut-out of the year.  

“They didn’t want to lose,” said Eagle’s Landing coach Elliott Montgomery. “We were all of one accord. (Estrada) is a hellacious player. Her and (Trojans midfielder Maddie Cook), they really worked hard to do what they did against us.”

The Lady Trojans are peaking at the right time. Coach Gary Gaddy’s team recently saw returns to action from Alexis Flanagan (hip), Myra Zimmerman (ankle), Cook (concussion) and Sullens (liver contusion).

North Hall saw several excellent scoring chances go begging in the second half. Zimmerman was unable to corral a tantalizing cross from Estrada just after halftime, only minutes before Lauren Tymchuck drilled her half-volley into the midsection of Proby.   

Estrada directed a 65th minute header just over the bar from a far-post free kick, only to be back on the offensive a few minutes later when the Trojans were awarded their penalty.

“With the trials we’ve faced this year, been bitten by the injury bug, we’ve been battling in these games,” said Gaddy. “Close games have helped us build a lot of character. It was only a matter of time.”

North Hall has won seven games so far this season by a margin of just one goal, including last week’s first-round 4-3 victory over Carrollton. 

“With the trials we’ve faced this year, been bitten by the injury bug, we’ve been battling in these games,” said Gaddy. “Close games have helped us build a lot of character. It was only a matter of time.”

Eagle’s Landing outshot North Hall 11-10, with North Hall taking the edge in corners (5-4). Proby recorded four saves for the Golden Eagles, who end their season in the second round of the playoffs.

“We’re one big family,” said Montgomery. “Everyone learns as a unit. They’re very coachable and they listen.”

North Hall now turns its focus to undefeated Marist (19-0-1), who fell to St. Pius X in last season’s state title game.

Gaddy said his team will need to stay locked down defensively against a team that has averaged 5.6 goals per game so far this season.

“We’ll have to be solid,” said Gaddy. “To be competitive, we’ll have to play well defensively, just like we did against Buford (a 3-2 loss). We’ll have to take advantage of the shots we have.”