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BACK-TO-BACK! West Forsyth wins state title after extra-time thriller
West Forsyth's girls soccer team captured its second straight Class 7A state championship game Friday with a 3-2 win against Mill Creek in extra time. - photo by David Roberts

POWDER SPRINGS — For a few moments Friday evening, the locker room at McEachern High School served as an impromptu boutique for West Forsyth's girls soccer team.

Sophomore Michelle Moskau scored the game-winning goal at about 7:15 p.m. to secure the Class 7A girls soccer state championship for the Wolverines, which gave West's upperclassmen about 15 minutes to prepare for and travel to downtown Atlanta for prom.

So, following an exhaustive 100-minute battle with the Hawks, and after a brief celebration on the field, West's players hustled up the stairs and out the door to their destination.

"McEachern High School was so gracious. Their AD provided a locker room for us and the girls are getting dressed and they're going to get to go to prom," West coach Jason Galt said. "I mean, this is like a fairytale ending. I told them, I said, 'You know what, girls? I went to prom. You know what I remember about it?' They go, 'What, coach?' And I go, 'Nothing. But you know what? If you win this game, you'll remember that prom the rest of your life.'"

West captured its second straight state championship with a 3-2 win against Mill Creek in a game where momentum seemed to shift with each possession late in the match.

In fact, West trailed for much of the second half and didn't produce the equalizer until the final minutes of regulation.

But with 4:40 remaining, Maren Parker lofted a pass to Abby Batts, who found herself between a pair of Mill Creek defenders in front of goal and scored off the initial touch to send the match into extra time. 

"After we scored the first one and tied it up I thought, 'OK, we have momentum,'" Moskau said. "It took a while for us to get settled in, but the better team finishes, and that's what we did."

West carried that momentum into the first half of extra time, where Alexia Force lifted a beautiful shot over the outstretched arm of Mill Creek goalie Mairin Halama and toward the back post to give the Wolverines an early extra-time lead.

But the Hawks answered a little over two minutes later, firing three straight shots directly at West goalie Olivia Needham, who managed to block the first two before the third shot snuck through to knot the game.

Then, with the match on the fast track toward penalty kicks, West caught a break when the Hawks fouled just outside the penalty box and set up Moskau with a chip-shot free kick. Moskau drilled the shot through the Mill Creek wall and past a diving Halama to set off the celebration.

"She's got a golden leg," Galt said. "Michelle Moskau is a heckuva player. Like I said last year, she's a major DI player, and major DI players make plays like that.'"

Moskau was in a similar position at the end of regulation, but her free kick was knocked away by Ella Williams before reaching any West player.

"I knew I missed a couple before during the game and I knew this had to be it," Moskau said. "I practice them all the time."

Mill Creek dominated possession early in the match, taking seven corner kicks to West's zero. The Hawks had several golden chances, too, including two instances when Mia Jackson was left one-on-one with Needham only to misfire and either send her shot too high or far right of goal. 

Other times, it was West's defense that stepped up. Ava Martin blocked a shot following Mill Creek's first corner of the match, then minutes later, Arianna Manrique targeted Morgan Hill with a well-timed cross in front of goal, but Lydia Davenport marked Hill every step of the way and refused to allow a clean look.

Needham made a highlight play of her own in the first half when Savannah Singleton managed to create separation and fire a shot that was destined for the net. But Needham climbed to meet the shot and delivered a one-handed save to punch the ball over goal and out of play. 

"For us to be able to compartmentalize that and come out and weather that storm — because Mill Creek was unbelievable," Galt said. "That's a heckuva team right there."

West finishes the season 18-3 with its second state title in as many seasons.

"I knew the talent we had coming back. It was just inexperienced talent," Galt said. "That's why you play the game. And I'll tell you this also: I play the hardest schedule I can play every year on purpose. Because if you play those tough teams, they help you win these kinds of games."