Leading up to Forsyth Central girls’ soccer’s state quarterfinal game against Northgate, Lady Bulldogs head coach Angela Camp had just two days to develop a scouting report on her team’s opponent. When she met with players, she emphasized several points about the Lady Vikings, particularly their physical play.
One of the last things Camp told players was a warning: Northgate was dangerous on corner kicks. She made her team watch video clip after clip of the Lady Vikings scoring on opponents.
“That was their M.O.,” Camp said.
Camp’s warning turned out to be a cruel harbinger. Northgate’s Lily Baron headed in a corner kick with 1 minute 12 seconds left to hand Central a 2-1 loss Saturday at home in the quarterfinals of the Class AAAAA playoffs.
Northgate advanced to play McIntosh in the state semifinals. Central ended its season at 15-5.
“It’s the game of soccer,” Camp said. “Sometimes you get unlucky. … I thought we were the superior team, both on the field and classy. We just lost this one.”
Baron’s eventual game-winner was framed within a final 10 minutes in which Central had every reason for optimism. By then, the teams had traded goals in the first half within a minute of each other. Northgate’s Caroline Peters finished a cross with 29:85 left. Central’s Kara Slaughter followed 45 seconds later when she snuck a soft shot past the Lady Vikings’ keeper.
Central got its first dose of hope with 9:25 left in the game when Northgate’s Cara Rhoad received her second yellow card, one of seven issued by refs in the physical contest. Rhoad was forced to leave the game and exit Bulldog Stadium. The Lady Bulldogs suddenly had a one-player advantage.
Central started to produce more scoring chances soon after, none were more tantalizing than when the Lady Bulldogs got a penalty kick with 2:08 left. Northgate frantically switched goalkeepers as Central senior Kara Slaughter prepared to take the shot, but the goalie was irrelevant. Slaughter’s attempt hit the crossbar.
Baron struck less than a minute later for Northgate, but Central produced one last look, a soft arcing shot by Abby Fagan from 25 yards that curled above the Lady Vikings’ defense, over its goalkeeper … and hit the crossbar.
“A hair lower and that’s a goal and it’s a tie ballgame,” Camp said.
Thirty seconds later, Central broke a huddle for the final time in a season that has perhaps announced the Lady Bulldogs’ return to prominence in the county. Central broke a five-year state playoff drought. It reached the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2006.
If not for an inch here of there, the Lady Bulldogs might have accomplished even more. After the game, though, Camp said this team had already accomplished the most significant thing it could.
“I hope it changes the attitude about Central soccer. That’s all,” Camp said. “When I came in, they weren’t very confident in themselves, and that’s been my main focus, was to get them to realize how good they were and then just work on their technical skills, and from there they’ve taken it and ran.”