It took a late goal, and even later goalkeeping for Heritage's girls soccer team to defeat top region foe Gainesville Thursday. Sara Boggus' goal with 4:08 remaining in the game broke a 1-1 tie and three key stops from senior keeper Mady Carter in the final three minutes keyed the Lady Patriots seventh region win and leaves them in control of their own destiny.
Heritage (7-0 Region 8A-AAAAA) has already secured no worse than a No. 3 seed in the state playoffs but can win the region title with a win over Loganville. The two teams face off when school resumes after next week's spring break. The win was also the 400th in school history for the girls soccer program.
“We didn't really play our style but I'll take it,” Heritage girls' coach Chad Suddeth said. “I'll take it. We'll take that win over a great Gainesville team and move on.”
Heritage took an early lead when Faith Shelton scored just four minutes into the match. Gainesville scored the equalizer midway through to setup a 1-1 tie heading into the second half.
Neither team could capitalize despite several chances. But the action really picked up over the final 10 minutes. Sensing overtime and the prospect of losing at a game of chance so-to-speak should it come down to penalty kicks, the Lady Patriots finally broke through with 4:08 when Boggus found the back of the next after Gainesville was unable to clear.
Needing less than four minutes to secure the win, Heritage held on despite three excellent looks at goal for Gainesville. Carter punched the first shot over the crossbar, a blast from the top of the box with 3:17 remaining. Then Carter took one in the gut from point blank range with 1:16. She sent Gainesville away one last time on a near post save off a desperate shot with 33 seconds left.
“Mady made a game-saving stop there for us,” Suddeth said. “Was I concerned? A bit but I've seen Mady do that for five years now. She's just a cold-hearted stopper. That's what she does. We got caught ball watching there at the end but I feel confident with Mady back there.”
Gainesville missed on a rebound when Carter snuffed out a shot in close. Then Carter was in position on the near post to corral the final blast.
The Lady Patriots would fall into a tie-breaker with Gainesville and Loganville should they loose their region finale. Suddeth has two games before the two teams meet to prepare after the break.
“We were scrambling all night,” he said. “I don't know if it was the heat or what. A lot of it has to do with Gainesville is good. They dominated us in the middle and that was kind of disappointing but the great teams find a way. Even without our A-game we were able to find a way to win.”
Boys: Gainesville 3, Heritage 0
In the boys' game, Heritage played the Red Elephants to a scoreless tie in the first half before one of the state's top teams found its groove in the second to the tune of three unanswered goals for a 3-0 win.
Heritage had an opportunity to take an early lead when Austin Kulp slipped behind the Gainesville defenders on a quick transition. With only the keeper to beat, Kulp fired wide right.
“That changed the momentum completely,” boys' coach Brandon Stewart said. “They escaped with one. I do think they are better than us. But that gives us a leg up. We miss that goal and it changed the whole complexity of the game.”
The Patriots also got a boost from their goal keeper Conner Domaleski less than 10 minutes later when he denied reigning region player of the year Ricardo Gomez on a penalty kick after a handball inside the box that went against Heritage.
Gainesville ball control and possession skill proved to be too much though as Heritage struggled in the middle of the field and often lost possession before being able to setup many plays.
Gainesville scored at the 29-minute mark then added a goal six minutes later, making the task even more daunting for the Patriots.
“Tactically we did what we wanted to in the first half,” Stewart said. “They stretched us a little in the second half but we were trying to chase the game at that point.”
One more goal inside of 10 minutes to play iced it for the Red Elephants who can win the region next match out. Heritage now must win its finale against Loganville to have a chance at the No. 3 seed.
“They are better than us technically. A lot of it is our youth,” Stewart said. “I'm proud of our boys for putting in a full shift mentally.