There wasn’t anything wrong with Greenwood’s process Tuesday night in the District 14 Girls’ Soccer Tournament semifinals.
The Lady Gators had the pressure turned up high from the get-go against Warren East at Drakes Creek Middle School. It just took a little time for that relentless attack to produce results – about 20 minutes. Then the first goal came when Amaya Salvador deftly crossed a pass to teammate Emily Buser in the penalty box for the opening score, and the goals started coming faster and faster.
By the time the scoring flurry ended on Claire Allen’s unassisted goal with about 15 minutes left, top-seeded Greenwood had secured a 10-0 victory to earn a spot in next week’s Region 4 Tournament and land a berth in Wednesday’s district tournament championship against No. 2 seed Bowling Green.
Fourth seed Warren East (14-5) survived an overtime game Monday to reach the semifinals, but the Lady Raiders had to play a bit short-handed with a couple players out. Even with a nine-game winning streak heading into the match, Warren East coach William Eller knew his team was facing long odds.
“We were missing a couple kids tonight in some places, which made us go into our bench a little earlier than we wanted,” Eller said. “Once the dam breaks, there wasn’t no stopping it. But we’re proud of our season this year. The girls played really well. We’ve had a great last three weeks.
“Greenwood’s the top team in our region for a reason. They’re athletic, they’re quick, they’re good on the ball, they move well. It’s just we were outmatched tonight.”
The Lady Gators doubled their lead five minutes in after Buser’s goal when senior midfielder Anna Haddock gathered a through ball from Anne Logan Perkins and beat Lady Raiders freshman goalkeeper Abbey Mills with a shot.
It was the first of four goals for Haddock, an Auburn signee who also had two assists in the win.
”When you have a player of that caliber, she’s able to take the ball and move it up the field on her own,” Lady Gators coach Zac Lechler said of Haddock. “I think this year we’ve kind of worked on her getting her teammates involved a little bit more and finding space for her teammates.”
Haddock struck again on a feed from Anna Drexel with two minutes left in the first half and Greenwood (15-2-3) added one more score in the final seconds on a Paige Hines goal off Haddock’s assist.
The Lady Gators led 4-0 at the break, but it would have been worse if not for Minor’s 16 first-half saves.
“Abbey’s a freshman goalkeeper, first year starting – she came in and won the job and has never looked back,” Eller said. “She grows in every game.”
Greenwood was more efficient in the second half, turning more of that pressure into scoring.
”Our halftime talk really got us pumped up and we understood that we have to use this to finish every opportunity that we have,” Lady Gators senior Annabel Justice said. “We did a lot in the first half of obviously not finishing our chances and we’re not going to have as many chances tomorrow regardless of who we play, so we have to do a better job of capitalizing on those. Which I think we did a lot better job in the second half.”
Justice opened the scoring four minutes into the second half on another Drexel assist and three minutes later Hines struck again via an assist from Haddock.
Up 6-0 at that point, Greenwood kept rolling. Haddock got her third goal just a minute after Hines’ second, then Haddock tallied her fourth three minutes later off Hines’ assist.
Erin Heltsley made it 9-0 in the 55th minute on a feed from Katarina Popovic, and Allen ended it with a riser that skipped off Minor’s fingertips and into the net.
“I think we always come out with a little extra in the second half,” Lechler said. “I don’t know why that is, I don’t know why we can’t start that way but it’s something we’ve definitely got to work on.”
Even though Wednesday’s district championship game doesn’t offer the threat of a season-ending loss, Justice said her team is focused on winning that title.
“I think it’s really important,” Justice said. “Our coach told us after this game that we have the opportunity to make a statement and make a big one.
“And show and prove how much we’ve improved this season and showcase all our talent.”