With six minutes remaining in Flowery Branch’s second-round playoff game against North Oconee, freshman Maggie Wadsworth found the ball at her foot with a clear look at the goal and only one thought going through her head: she wasn’t ready for the season to end.
Wadsworth launched a shot from just outside the right side of the box into the top left corner of the net to put the Lady Falcons up 2-1, a score that would stand as Flowery Branch won to advance to the third round of the Class 4A state tournament.
“Throughout the game, I had a few one-on-ones with the goalie, and I missed them all,” Wadsworth said. “But I knew that time it had to be it.”
With the win, Flowery Branch faces Woodward Academy in the state quarterfinals on May 7 in Flowery Branch.
Wadsworth dominated the game from start to finish, earning several breakaway opportunities before finally finding the back of the net and even assisting on the team’s first goal of the game — a header put in by fellow freshman Mollie Langner that came off a Wadsworth cross.
Flowery Branch coach Anel Lilic said Wednesday’s narrow victory should give his team a boost in confidence as it pushes deeper into the postseason.
“They’re going to know they can play in these types of games and play the whole 80 minutes, do the defensive, attacking, transitional stuff for the whole time,” Lilic said. “I’m really proud of them. They’ve done a great job. Hopefully they continue on.”
The Lady Falcons kept the offensive pressure up throughout the opening half, creating several chances early on, but failing to convert on any of them. On two occasions, Wadsworth found herself in one-on-one situations with the North Oconee goalkeeper, but one shot was saved and a timely slide tackle from behind neutralized the other.
In the 35th minute, the Lady Falcons finally managed to put in a goal.
While dribbling toward the back line on the right side of the field, Wadsworth sent a cross sailing from right to left over the Lady Titans’ keeper, bending the ball directly into Langner’s head for an easy finish on an open net that put Flowery Branch up, 1-0.
That score held until the 65th minute of the match, when a North Oconee free kick found its way into the Lady Falcons’ box. A couple of errant attempts to clear the ball saw it find its way to the feet of Lady Titans striker Callee Maughon, who slotted the equalizer into the bottom right corner of the net.
At that point, Wadsworth admitted she got a bit nervous about her team’s chances of surviving the game. But when a collision with the North Oconee goalkeeper some 15 minutes later forced her to briefly leave the game to deal with an injury, Wadsworth knew something had to give.
“When I came back on, I knew something had to happen,” she said. “I wasn’t ready to go home yet.”
Wadsworth’s first touch after returning to the game was the deciding shot.
After taking the lead, the Flowery Branch offensive players managed to possess the ball in the corner of the field to kill off the final six minutes of the game. It was a display of maturity that Lilic said the team may not have managed earlier in the year.
With the way the team has grown and the confidence with which it’s been playing of late, Lilic said his squad has the opportunity to make a deep playoff run.
“They knew what to do and saw the game out,” he said. “I think with all of the learning tools, we’re continuing to get better.
Glad to play another day.”