Girls soccer advances to quarterfinals

Sophomore+Shay+Bowman+dribbles+the+ball+past+a+defender+during+a+second+round+playoff+game+against+the+Decatur+Bulldogs+on+Monday%2C+April+26.+The+Knights+won+3-2.

William Randall

Sophomore Shay Bowman dribbles the ball past a defender during a second round playoff game against the Decatur Bulldogs on Monday, April 26. The Knights won 3-2.

Cole Parker and William Randall

The girls soccer team has extended its season after defeating the Decatur Bulldogs 3-2 in an overtime thriller on Monday, April 26.

“They played amazingly,” head coach Blair Barksdale said. “We knew from last week it was going to be a battle, and that adds a whole new element. They executed, and I’m so proud of them.”

In the second round playoff game, the Knights (the No. 1 seed from Region 6AAAAA) outperformed the Bulldogs (the No. 3 seed from Region 5AAAAA) with a technical offensive scheme.

“We knew we needed to be on top of our game,” senior and co-captain Elise Isakov said. “Their defense is really good, so we had to make sure our outside midfielders worked with our center midfielders and passed with our forwards really quickly in order to break their line of defense and get the opportunity to score.”

In addition to their strategic maneuvers, the girls’ mentality earned them the win.

“We’ve been practicing really hard, but at the end of the day, it was really a mental game,” Isakov said. “We knew we were going to play a really tough team, and we knew, most likely, we were going to go into overtime or PK’s, so we had to mentally prepare for that. We had to prepare for not only playing an eighty-minute game but possibly a one hundred-minute game.”

The Knights previously defeated the Bulldogs 1-0 in penalty kicks during the regular season. Because of that and the fact that many members of both teams play club together, the Knights were already familiar with the Bulldogs’ playing style.

“They’ve improved since the last time we saw them,” Barksdale said. “The girls play with them outside of high school in clubs, so it’s one thing to come in and not know anybody, but when you hang out with them and see them, it adds a whole new element.”

The girls started the game aggressively without getting any real shots off. However, the momentum shifted in favor of the Bulldogs after they scored and took a 1-0 lead in the first 10 minutes of the half.

“I didn’t want to end my whole high school career on a loss to Decatur,” Isakov said. “When we initially got scored on, I thought this could go one of two ways: we were either going to use this as momentum to get better, or we were going to go downhill.”

The girls chose the former, and on a fast break, sophomore Shay Bowman scored and tied the game 1-1. Shortly after, with a cross-field penalty kick from junior Callan Cucchi, Bowman got the ball back and punched in another goal, giving the girls a 2-1 lead going into the second half.

“They didn’t give up,” Barksdale said. “There was really that leadership saying we have to give one hundred percent; we can’t back down. That’s really what the difference was.”

To start the second half, the Bulldogs retaliated and tied the game 2-2. From there on out, both teams took multiple shots but failed to slot any home, sending the game to overtime.

In the first few minutes of overtime, Bowman darted down the field with the ball in an attempt to regain the lead for the Knights, but a diving Bulldog goalie blocked her shot.

Towards the end of overtime, Bowman, once again, was at the helm, dribbling the ball down the sideline. She centered the ball to Isakov, who passed it to freshman Allie Planeaux. After spotting an opening, Planeaux drove the ball in and gave the girls a 3-2 lead.

“I was ecstatic [when Planeaux scored],” Isakov said. “Before it happened, I was a little scared; I knew I was right in front of the goal. Allie just happened to be there, and when she scored it, it was like a movie. I was so proud of her, especially because she’s a freshman, and she’d been working super hard the entire game.”

The Bulldogs failed to score for the remainder of overtime, giving the win to the Knights, who will advance to the third round.

On Tuesday, May 4, the Knights will play against the Starr’s Mill Panthers (the No. 2 seed from Region 2AAAAA). Until then, the girls are prioritizing becoming more fluid on the field to ready themselves.

“We definitely need to connect more,” Isakov said. “We need to keep these passes down on the ground. It’s really dangerous to play balls up in the air because that’s where you can either get injured or lose it.”

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