You can forgive the Portal girls' soccer team for being a little tight in the opening round of the state tournament last week as they missed a lot of scoring chances in their 2-1 win over Lanier County. Monday evening the Lady Panthers showed they learned from last week as they capitalized on their scoring opportunities as they knocked off Wheeler County 5-1 to advance to the state Class-A quarterfinals.
“We have definitely been working on finishing in practice and they did a great job tonight,” said Portal coach Johnny Sanchez. “We controlled the ball on offense and played well on defense, but the big difference was being able to finish things off. We really dominated out there and waited for them to come press us and we really passed the ball well.”
After missing on their first two scoring chances Kelsi Williams and Aydin Street played give and go with Street finishing things off just getting the ball across the line for a 1-0 Panther lead. Wheeler County answered quickly as Lucy Pope finished off a long run with a goal to tie the game at 1-1 with 22:10 left in the first half.
Street continued to make up for some opportunities she wasn’t able to finish on last week as she took a deflected ball and tucked in nicely in the right corner of the net to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead with 7:14 left into half. That score would hold up into halftime.
“Aydin has so much potential to just be a freshman,” said Sanchez. “She did a great job taking coaching advice from last week and applying it on the field tonight. She had a few times where if she tucked the ball, she would have scored and tonight she did just that.”
The Panthers started to pull away in the second half. Madison Nesmith fired a shot on goal early in the second half. The ball was cleared with a lot of spin on the ball with the ball bouncing back toward the goal Nesmith spun and sent a nice chip shot over the keeper’s head to extend the lead to 3-1.
The Panthers weren’t done scoring as Kelsi Williams made a run and with a defender on her hip, she tucked a shot into the bottom left past the keeper for a 4-1 lead. Abigail Scarborough capped the scoring with a high blast from about 30 yards away for the final score on a 5-1 final.
"We had so many people play well tonight," said Sanchez. Abigail Scarborough really controlled the middle of the field. Kelsi and Aydin really played well together and on defense Gina Hogan, Kara Sivils and Lilly Mallard as well as Millie Scarborough in goal."
“Soccer is something new for many of these girls,” said Sanchez. “I continue to see them improve from week to week. They are all very coachable and take advice well and actually use what they learn on the field. I’m so proud of them and I am looking forward to what they can do in the Elite-8.”
The Panthers win puts them into the state quarterfinals along with the Portal boys. The girls are scheduled to play the winner of Social Circle and ACE Charter Tuesday May 4. The boys are scheduled to play the winner of Lake Oconee Academy and ACE Charter Wednesday May 5.