POWDER SPRINGS — Rachel Shah delivered a big blow to Hillgrove’s spirits when she put No. 10-ranked South Forsyth ahead 3-1 with nine seconds remaining before halftime. Whatever remained of the Lady Hawks’ morale likely vanished when Shah scored again only 18 seconds into the second half.
Shah’s two goals in a 27-second span of game time helped the junior match her career high of four goals in a single game, and No. 2 seed South clobbered No. 2 seed Hillgrove 6-3 in the Class 6A girls soccer quarterfinals on Friday at the Lady Hawks’ field. South advances to face No. 3-ranked Parkview in a rematch of the 2008 state championship game — the last time the Lady War Eagles advanced beyond the state quarterfinals.
“We were sharp tonight,” South Forsyth head coach Tom Braun said. “We just felt like we dominated the ball game. ... It was a good team effort.”
Shah’s big night helped provide a rare comfortable win for South (16-5), which was forced to rally to win each of its first two playoff games in the closing minutes.
The Lady War Eagles trailed Duluth 1-0 in the opening round of the playoffs before they scored two goals in the final three minutes of play and won 2-1. South also trailed Walton 1-0 in the final nine minutes of regulation in the second round, but tied the game and went on to win 2-1 in overtime.
South’s six goals against Hillgrove (15-5-1) set a new season high.
“I think we’re just peaking at the right time,” Shah said. “That win against Walton was huge because Walton was a big competitor in the tournament and we knocked them out. I think that gave us a lot of confidence.”
Shah scored her first goal in the closing seconds before halftime off a throw-in from Brie Haynes.
South already held a 2-1 lead courtesy of a goal by Haynes in the 30th minute. Haynes, a senior, played goalkeeper for South in her junior season before moving to forward for most of the 2013 season.
“She’s done a great job coming out of the goal to play on the field for us and it’s been a big difference,” Braun said.
Haynes connected with Shah again only moments into the second half. She took a long pass off the kickoff and pushed the ball deep into the box, then tapped it back out to Shah, who scored from several yards away.
“That basically turned the game around real quick in our favor,” Braun said. “It kind of let the air out of [Hillgrove].”
Shah notched her third goal in the 48th minute on a left-footed kick from 25 yards out. She tallied her fourth straight goal — and increased South’s lead to 6-1 — in the 63rd minute on a 30-yard shot from the middle of the field.
“We just kept pressuring,” Braun said. “We wanted more because we wanted to get everybody a lot of playing time, as much as we possibly could. The kids came to play tonight.”
Hillgrove scored twice in the final 11 minutes of play after most of South’s starters were on the bench. Rachel Palazzo tapped in a cross from Maggie Gaughan in the 70th minute and Sydney A. Clark headed in a corner kick in the 75th minute.
The late defensive breakdown was the lone blemish on an otherwise strong night for South, which never trailed.
Mackenzie Norton put the Lady War Eagles ahead 1-0 in the eighth minute on a corner kick that bounced her way after Hillgrove was unable to clear it from the box. Necee Jennings temporarily tied the game in the 11th minute when Hillgrove was awarded a penalty kick.
South plays Parkview today in Lilburn.
The two teams have not faced one another since Parkview defeated South 1-0 in the 2008 Class 5A state championship.
“We know it’s going to be an extremely hard game and we have to bring our ‘A game’ on Tuesday,” Braun said. “Hopefully we can just keep fighting, and the [right] result will come our way.”