GAINESVILLE — Both the Lakeview Academy and Mt. Vernon Presbyterian girls soccer teams came into their Class A Private opening round playoff game on Tuesday flashing some serious offensive firepower.
The teams each had 57 scored goals on the season and they did not disappoint piling up 31 shots on goal and 10 goals combined. But it was Lakeview goalkeeper Ansley Rochester that proved to be the difference.
Rochester stopped nine shots, including four from point-blank range inside 5-yards, to help the Lady Lions pull away for a 7-4 victory at Jock Horner Field. It didn’t hurt that Hall County’s all-time leading scorer and Davidson-signee Carmen Wagner converted a hat trick to go with one assist for Lakeview.
The win pushed Lakeview Academy (14-3) into the second round for the third consecutive season. The Lady Lions next will take on undefeated First Presbyterian, which knocked off Strong Rock 3-0 in the first round, next Tuesday in Macon.
Lakeview coach Nathan Wallace said he was surprised by the offensive fireworks of both teams.
“We have girls that can find the net but honestly I saw this as like a 3-1 or 4-2 type game coming into it,” Wallace said. “I think what changed for us was that (Mt. Vernon) were playing a four-high defense, which really plays to our strength on offense. That really allowed Carmen and Meredith (Tucker) to have some room to operate.”
The three goals for Wagner pushed her all-time total to 111 goals -- and Wallace said hopefully counting.
"It's just amazing what she has been able to do," Wallace said. "But we need everyone next week."
Both teams put immediate pressure on the defenses. Lakeview Academy forced a corner just 1 minute in but a shot by Tucker off a corner was blocked from point-blank range by a defender.
Mt. Vernon (9-4) countered two minutes later with a corner of its own and the Lady Lions survived a wild scramble in front as the defense finally cleared after three attempts by the Lady Mustangs.
After a series of counters over the next three minutes, Lakeview struck first on a goal by Esther Suen off a rebound from a Wagner shot in the 5th minute for a 1-0 lead.
Mt. Vernon had a quick counter on the following kickoff less than a minute later as Hannah Hagenau took a nice feed and had a run down the right side. But Rochester denied Hagenau on a 1-on-1 with a shoulder save to keep the Lady Mustangs off the board.
“Ansley had some big saves for us,” Wallace said. “We feel very confident with her back there. I think that one kind of set the tone. Two of their goals came off scrambles after corners and that last one with 6 seconds left everyone was relaxing a bit. She was big when we needed it."
Two minutes later Wagner was denied on a point-blank shot but seven minutes after that she finally broke through, literally, as she bulled her way through the Mt. Vernon defense and beat Lady Mustangs’ keeper Katieanne Peterson for a 2-0 advantage in the 14th minute.
“Carmen is so physical and hard to stop,” Wallace said. “Again, they played a defense that we were able to take advantage of for most of the game.”
The two-goal lead would be short-lived, however.
The Lady Mustangs answered less than a minute later taking advantage of a Lakeview defensive mistake and beat Rochester high in the right corner to cut the lead to 2-1.
Rochester would deny the Lady Mustangs again stopping another shot within 5-yards to maintain the slim lead with 20 minutes left in the first half. Wagner and Tucker reclaimed the two-goal advantage for Lakeview when Wagner slipped a pass through three defenders to Tucker, who beat Peterson for a slight cushion at 3-1 with 13:41 left.
The Lady Mustangs stepped up their offensive pressure over the next five minutes with another corner and three shots within 10-yards but Rochester was up to the task each time. And with just four minutes left, Lakeview’s Maddy Towles drilled a sweet 20-yard bender past Peterson into the left corner off a scramble on a throw-in to extend the lead to 4-1.
Mt. Vernon, however, did not go away as Ashley McCown scored with just 34 seconds left on a wild scramble in front to trim the lead to 4-2 by halftime.
In the second half Mt. Vernon wasted little time, stealing the ball and forcing a quick corner in the second minute and then pulling within 4-3 as the ball found the net after another scramble in front.
But Wagner stopped the rally tallying her second goal with a long run, beating two defenders, and blasting a shot past Peterson for a 5-3 lead three minutes later. The Lady Mustangs never recovered.
Rochester again kept it a two-goal lead as she made a fingertip save with 25 minutes left. Wagner answered moments later gathering in a long pass and flicked a shot over Peterson and a defender to complete the hat trick and give Lakeview a 6-3 lead with 21:59 left.
Lakeview sealed the win six minutes later when Towles got her second goal off a header on a deflection for a 7-3 advantage. On the play, Tucker blasted a 35-yard free kick that Peterson just barely got a hand on but it ricocheted off the crossbar. Towles headed the ricochet into the goal, which Peterson caught. However, she was standing 2-yards inside the goal at the time.
Wallace said their full attention now will turn to a First Presbyterian team that has allowed just one goal with 17 shutouts on the season while pouring in 125 goals in 19 matches (6.5 goals a game).
The Lady Lions also will be looking for their first-ever trip into the quarterfinals with a victory.
“I don’t know the quality of teams they have played but when you only allow one goal in a season that’s stout,” Wallace said. “We’re going to have to find a way to score. Carmen and Meredith give us that option. But I think the key may be our defense and Ansley.
“We had two freshman on defense at the beginning of the year and they’ve improved as the season has gone on. I thought they played well tonight and really only gave up one goal. If we get that kind of effort again I’ll be pleased.
“I feel like we have a chance to make history for the program. I don’t like to compare teams but this team may be the best-equipped for us to be able to do that.”