DAWSONVILLE — The Dawson County girls soccer team battled for 80 minutes, but two defensive miscues cost the Lady Tigers in a 2-0 loss to Lovett in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs on Tuesday in Dawsonville.
Outside of those moments -- one in each half -- the top 10 battle proved tense and even-handed. But the Lady Lions' opportunism proved the difference.
Lovett's Sarah Elizabeth Matthews made the most of the first chance, scoring 13 minutes into the contest. And while Dawson County responded impressively, forcing the Lady Lions on to their back foot for much of the second half, Maiya Moran still pounced to kill the contest with just 1:31 remaining.
For a Lady Tigers squad stocked with youth -- four seniors featured amongst Tuesday's starting 11, but there are a combined 15 freshmen and sophomores on the roster -- it could prove a valuable learning experience.
Sixth-ranked Lovett started the contest very much on the front foot, pressing forward and putting third-ranked Dawson County under pressure from the opening kickoff.
Matthews proved a handful for the Lady Tigers defense, and Dawson goalkeeper Fallan Lacey had to be alert to snuff out two shots from the senior striker, including a diving save to her right just four minutes into the game.
Yet the Lady Tigers (14-4) appeared set to weather the storm, as Dawson began carving out space in midfield and pushing Lovett back into its own half.
Then came the sucker punch.
Drawing a foul 39 yards from goal, the Lady Lions (11-8) lofted a free kick into the Dawson penalty area. The Lady Tigers whiffed on a clearance attempt, and the ball fell perfectly for Matthews, who curled it into the right side of the Dawson net for a 1-0 Lovett lead with just over 26 minutes left in the first half.
The goal did not deter the Lady Tigers, however, and Dawson continued to battle, turning the remainder of the half into a stalemate.
Samantha Floyd even gave Lovett a scare, ripping a 25-yard shot that Lady Lions goalkeeper Heitho Shipp nabbed just in front of the goal line with 14 minutes remaining in the half. Dawson failed to test Shipp again before the interval, however, as Lovett maintained its advantage.
The Lady Tigers continued their work after the interval, pushing more bodies into attack, Brooke Cagle, Mackenzie Callas, Rachel Rajczak and Ruthie Pittman each taking turns probing the Lovett defense.
The strategy also yielded space in the Dawson defense, however, and Matthews forced another save from Lacey with 32 minutes remaining.
The Lady Tigers responded, however, and Frankie Muldoon so nearly leveled the score with a low, 20-yard drive that Shipp stretched to tip around her own goal post with 26 minutes remaining.
There were other opportunities for the Lady Tigers, including a corner kick with 15 minutes remaining that pinged around the Lovett penalty area, just eluding the efforts of the Dawson attack.
The Lady Tigers continued to press for the equalizer, but, as time ticked away, Lovett pounced once again. This time Moran made the most of a botched clearance to score from 15 yards and end the Lady Tigers' hopes of a fightback.