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Sunday July 12th, 2020 2:57PM

PLAYOFF SOCCER: Early blitz sends Lady Falcons into 3rd straight Final 4

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

FLOWERY BRANCH — After a nail-biting win in the second round of the Class 4A soccer playoffs last week, the Flowery Branch girls quickly made sure there would be no dramatics Tuesday in the quarterfinal round against Woodward Academy.

The Lady Falcons’ Maggie Wadsworth scored three goals in the opening 3:05 to spark a 5-1 victory over the Lady War Eagles at Falcons Field. 

The offensive explosion came just six days after the Lady Falcons (17-2-2) eked out a tight 2-1 win over North Oconee.

Wadsworth got the first goal on a beautiful pass from Caroline Wysocki off the opening kickoff just 14 seconds in; the second came on a shot after into the top corner just over a minute later after a steal in the midfield; and the third after Lady War Eagles keeper Laura Hollis mishandled the ball in the box leaving Wadsworth with a wide-open net.

The quick strikes even surprised the Lady Falcons.

“We wanted to pressure them. That first one was just a great pass by Caroline and I was open for a shot,” Wadsworth said. “The second one I’m not real sure how it ended up there, and the third was a surprise because you don’t expect something like that.

“We gained a lot of confidence after that. It was crazy.”

Flowery Branch coach Anel Lilic said the plan was to try and get a quick start. But that was beyond anything they could have imagined.

“The plan was to try and jump on them early if we could. We were able to do that but no one expects to get three goals in the first three minutes,” Lilic said. “Once they got the quick start the girls just kept pressuring them.”

Flowery Branch added a fourth goal in the 22nd minute when Mollie Langner converted a penalty kick after a Woodward foul in the box.

Woodward Academy never really recovered, though the Lady War Eagles did manage a goal in the 39th minute from Brooke Sard to trim the lead to 4-1 just before halftime.

Flowery Branch dominated the action from the outset. The Lady Falcons controlled the possession for more than 75 percent of the first half putting 10 shots on goal to go another half-dozen serious scoring threats.

Woodward Academy managed just two shots in the first half.

The second half saw the Lady War Eagles (12-5-2) shore up their defensive issues but they also could not solve the Flowery Branch backline after the late first-half score. The Lady Falcons yielded just three more shots for the match.

Rachel Biasi closed out the scoring with 1:28 left on a blast past Sard for the final score.

Now the Region 7-4A region champion Lady Falcons will turn their attention to Region 1-4A champion Columbus, which whipped Heritage-Catoosa 6-1 in the quarterfinals. Columbus has scored 27 goals in the first three rounds. The Lady Falcons will face their first road test of the playoffs when they take on the Lady Blue Devils next Tuesday.

It is the second consecutive semifinal appearance for Flowery Branch and Lilic said they are hoping they can use last year’s experience for a better outcome after a tough 3-2 loss to McIntosh.

“We have a picture in our locker room of our faces after that loss,” Lilic said. “We can definitely use that experience for this time around. But we’ve just been working on the things we can control. If we do that, then we’ll be prepared for whatever happens.”

NOTES: Both defenses came in being stingy allowing just one goal each in their first two playoff matches. Flowery Branch had 15 matches of allowing one goal or fewer with 10 shutouts. ... Woodward Academy had 14 matches of allowing one goal or less with 6 shutouts.

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