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Portal soccer girls Elite 8 bound after 6-0 thrashing of GMC Prep
Girls to play Aquinas of Augusta Monday for berth in Final Four
Portal soccer
Portal's Maggie Brannen offers up proof that the Panthers' earned a trip to the state Elite 8 with a 6-0 victory over GMC Prep on Tuesday, April 23. Brannen score the first two goals of the game. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

A second-half hat trick by Colby Stewart helped propel the Portal Lady Panthers to a 6-0 victory Tuesday at the Portal Athletic Complex over Georgia Military College Prep and into the Elite 8 of the state Class 1A-Division 2 playoffs.

Portals is now 13-2-1 and will face Aquinas of Augusta on Monday. While the Panthers are a 1 seed, it was uncertain if they would host the quarterfinal matchup.

Portal got two goals from Maggie Brannen in the first half, and then, with just under 30 seconds remaining before halftime, striker Madison Nesmith launched a high arching shot from about 30-yards away just over the leaping GMC keeper to give Portal a 3-0 lead.

Portal soccer
Portal begins the celebration as time expires after earning a trip to the state Elite 8 with a 6-0 victory over GMC Prep. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

“We started the game off intense and scored early, which was huge,” said Panther coach Johnnie Sanchez. “We have really emphasized team this year and they have bought in. We have stressed how all 11 people on the field are important and they really played hard for themselves and their teammates.”

The Panther defense played a key role in the victory according to Sanchez. Not only preventing GMC out of Milledgeville from scoring, but also getting the ball ahead to start breaks on offense.

Portal soccer
Portal's Gina Hogan zeroes in on the ball as the Panthers earn a trip to the state Elite 8. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

“Our defense has been great all year,” Sanchez said. “The goal for every game is to keep a clean sheet and protect the goalie as much as you can. Those girls back there are solid and take a lot of pride in their jobs.”

The win showed how far the Panthers have come in a short time. The last time they played, GMC won, 10-1, in 2019.

“We have all come so far, so fast,” Sanchez said. “They started off just kicking the ball ahead and trying to run it down, but now we do a good job with set plays and the girls continue to improve on their soccer skills.”

Portal soccer
Portal's Colby Stewart sends a shot into the net to give her a hat trick, all in the second half, as the Panthers earned a trip to the state Elite 8. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff