Lady Wildcats cruise into Final Four 5-1 win over Decatur
A light drizzle didn’t dampen the Lady Wildcats drive as Whitewater opened up the floodgates on the Decatur Bulldogs in a 5-1 romp Friday night.
Two early goals were key as the Cats built up a lead they would never relinquish against a strong Decatur squad.
“The girls played great. They came out with intensity, and they played smart,” said Whitewater coach Randy Hayes. “Decatur is a tough team. They played very well, but we got a couple up on them, we saw some shoulders drop, so I said let’s keep pushing.”
Decatur went on the attack from opening whistle, getting a good luck on goal with a sharp crossing pass, but missing wide on the shot. The Wildcats quickly turned the tables with their own offensive push. As she would do all night, Abbie Crane raced through, around, and past the Bulldog defense setting up a breakaway, but her shot clanked off the left post. Undeterred, Crane kept up the assault to put the first points on the board. Reeling in a full-field free kick from Ally Smithwick, Crane drew the Decatur defense in and chipped it to Madison Longley to punch in for a goal. Mere minutes later the Cats hit again, Camille Messina hitting Jolie Ryff in stride up the right flank, allowing her to sprint past the defense and beat the keeper for an early 2-0 advantage.
The keepers traded big saves as the margin held into the halftime break.
Decatur looked fresh to open the final 40 minutes. Their keeper made a sterling kick save on a point-blank Crane shot, and the offense got on the board with a perfectly-placed goal in the top-right corner to cut the lead to 2-1.
Whitewater would not crumble. The Cats padded their lead on a Smithwick free kick into the box to Longley, who found it in traffic and chipped it past the keeper. One minute later they put the game out of reach with April Dumas feeding Crane, who again sliced and diced through the defense setting up a one-on-one with the keep she would win. For good measure, Bailey Vessell made it 5-1 scoring off a rebound.
“The second half is typically not our strongest half, and (Decatur) played very well in the second half. I was pleased our effort stayed real high throughout the game,” said Hayes. “It was nice to have that comeback in the second half. We pushed it up to a level where we knew they were going to have a hard time coming back.”
With the support of stingy defenders Ashley McMahon, Molly Downing, Smithwick, and Vessell, keeper Emma Fulton shut down an impressive Decatur attack.
“Emma made 7 saves tonight, and all of them could’ve potentially gone in. They were all good shots,” said Hayes. “She played a great game. She’s tremendous back there.”
The win advanced the Wildcats to the Final Four where they travel to face Buford tonight at 6:30 p.m. after losing a coin toss for home field advantage.
McIntosh punches pair of tickets to soccer semifinals
The McIntosh boys are one step closer to another state championship, and they scored sweet revenge along the way in a 1-0 win over the Riverwood Raiders Saturday afternoon.
The Raiders and Chiefs dueled last year in the quarterfinals on Riverwood’s pitch. McIntosh was dealt a shocking 4-1 defeat as the Raiders rolled to a state championship.
“We went up there last year to their place, and we had one of those games where everything just fell apart. We’ve been waiting 365 days for today,” said McIntosh coach Bunky Colvin. “We knew they’re great champions, they’re state champions. We plan to change that in a week and become state champions.”
An extremely physical match could not knock the Chiefs off their path. Late in the first half, they broke through with a goal by Dylan Keysar.
“We beat a great team today through guts and effort and determination,” said Colvin. “We have a saying ‘Champions find a Way.’ That’s what today was about it. It wasn’t necessarily about being pretty, it was about getting the result. It was all guts, so they deserve a little glory for it.”
One goal was all the Chiefs needed. Leaning on their stingy defense and keeper Noah Slepicka, they shut down a team that scored more than 100 goals this season.
“In our classification, they’re probably the most prolific scoring team,” said Colvin. “For us to shut them out is an incredible feat of its own.”
As the Raiders went on the attack to try to even the tally late, the Chiefs stood strong and fended them off.
“Every player did their job. Nobody was out for themselves. It was a collective effort,” praised Colvin. “People gave up scoring chances to sit and defend. It was definitely an unselfish team effort.”
The Chiefs advanced to the Final Four where they host Grady tonight at 7:30 p.m.
The weekend was a success for the whole soccer program at McIntosh as the Lady Chiefs punched their own ticket to the Final Four with a 2-0 road win over Grady Friday night.
One first half goal kept the Knights at bay, and a second half goal by Taylor Malasek added the insurance to advance.
The victory moves them back into the Final Four where they face Flowery Branch on the road today at 5:30 p.m.