Wesleyan overwhelms FPD in GHSA girls soccer final
A little extra speed up the sidelines was all Wesleyan needed to secure its first GHSA girls soccer championship.
Lucy Mitchell and Sutton West turned loose on a couple of Wesleyan rushes early in the second half of the Wolves’ Class 1A final against FPD on Friday. One of those rushes led to a decisive goal, with West poking Mitchell’s pass past the Vikings’ Caylee Ann Sutton a little less than five minutes into the second half to swing what was a deadlocked game Wesleyan’s way.
Wesleyan controlled things from there. The Wolves scored two more goals, pulling away for a 4-1 victory at Five Star Stadium.
For FPD, the loss was an anticlimactic ending to a season in which the Vikings (22-1) had allowed just one goal prior to the championship game.
Four who mattered
Mitchell and West: Mitchell, a freshman, and West, a junior, pressed FPD’s back line in the second half. Their speed allowed Wesleyan to work the flanks, pushing the ball up the field and creating scoring opportunities. In addition to assisting on the go-ahead goal, Mitchell scored Wesleyan’s first goal on a putback with 9:37 to go in the first half.
Katia Hanger: A tall junior defender who has committed to Lipscomb, Hanger played a key role in the first half, helping Wesleyan’s back line shut down the scoring opportunities FPD had. In the second half, Hanger and her defensive teammates were able to play up a bit, helping keep the ball in the FPD half most of the time.
Sutton: The FPD keeper faced a number of challenges, playing through an apparent leg injury in the second half. Sutton kept FPD in the game in the first half with several brilliant saves, finishing the game with eight.
West’s go-ahead goal was big, but Wesleyan (19-3-1) essentially secured the victory with 19:30 to go when TJ Anderson netted a penalty kick after FPD’s Amelia Squires was whistled for a handball in the box. It was an unlucky call for FPD, as the ball appeared to take a wild bounce off the Five Star Stadium artificial surface right into Squires’ hand. She didn’t try to play the ball and she wasn’t carded, but the PK was still awarded.
Level at halftime: Both sides had quality scoring opportunities in the first half, with Wesleyan capitalizing first when Mitchell directed a loose rebound into the net. It was the first time FPD had trailed all season, but the deficit didn’t last long. The Vikings’ Jansyn Samples was taken down in the box with 5:03 to go before halftime, and Kate Patterson netted the ensuing penalty kick to tie things heading into the break.
Numbers fall Wesleyan’s way: Wesleyan outshot FPD 15-7, with the Wolves enjoying an 11-4 edge in shots on goal. Wesleyan also had a 6-1 edge in corner kicks.
Cards seal FPD’s fate: Any hopes of a late FPD comeback were dashed with nine minutes to go when two Vikings players were sent off. Patterson, a senior, picked up her second yellow card for dangerous play, resulting in a red card. Karsten Herron was immediately issued a straight red card apparently for dissenting with the referee. FPD finished with nine players, and Wesleyan’s Paige Prettyman scored on a putback header with 5:04 to go for the game’s final goal.
Macon connection: Wesleyan defender Sadie Prince enjoyed a homecoming of sorts Friday. Prince is the daughter of FPD and Mercer graduate Jennifer Taylor Prince and former Mercer baseball player and Mercer Law School alumnus Chris Prince. Sadie was an FPD student from pre-K through second grade, when the family moved from Macon to Atlanta, and Sadie’s mother and grandmother both taught at FPD.
They said it
Mitchell on Wesleyan’s outside speed: “We have some really fast outside backs in Gracie (Mitchell) and Sadie who are able to help us get around the corner. The speed helps us out up top.”
Wesleyan head coach Lacy Gilbert on the go-ahead goal: “Our goal was to come out strong. We said the first five and 10 minutes is the most important. We changed our lineup, as well, so we could control the middle of the field better, and that freed us up to attack more.”
FPD head coach Josh Trieste on dealing with Wesleyan’s speed: “We knew they were fast. You have a very fine line as a first or second defender. The first defender has to give enough pressure to force her to take the move, and the second defender has to be just right. And they’ve got talented girls that were just able to make a play.”
Trieste on Wesleyan’s go-ahead goal: “(Mitchell) cut in on our center back and took another quick touch, and I thought we did a good job of cutting her off and not allowing her to go to the goal. But she found a girl crashing the top of the (6-yard box). It was a good play, a good finish, and it was the game-winner.”
Trieste on FPD’s season: “Twenty-two wins is a school record, and five goals (allowed) in a season breaks a school record. They set records, and I told them, ‘There’s 60 teams in Single-A soccer, and only two are playing at Mercer. We’re going home with a trophy, we get to enjoy that in our locker room. More importantly, we had a great senior class that did a good job leading this year. They’re going to look back, probably not today, probably not this week, but they’re going to be excited about the senior season they had. For the rest of the girls, they set the bar high, and they have a lot to look forward to next year.”