Gillian Bay’s shot took flight, sailed leisurely over the goalkeeper and hit the right post. Bay had time to watch it and ponder the question of whether the shot would go in. She didn’t think it would.
Then West Forsyth could exhale a bit, because the ball settled into the net.
The goal produced as much relief as it did joy for the West girls soccer team, which was reflected in Bay’s reaction to the first teammate she saw in the ensuing celebration: “Thank God, finally.”
It was the first salvo in the Wolverines’ 3-0 win over Forsyth Central, a victory West hopes will send it on a run after a disappointing start to the Region 5-7A schedule.
“The potential’s there; we’ve just got to put a game together,” West head coach Jason Bayush said. “Today, we put a game together. We played our game. We didn’t let the other team dictate our play.”
The 0-3 record with which the defending region champs began the year could be a deceptive indicator of West’s overall strength, as the Lady Wolverines are stacked with Division I talent and returned many contributors from last year’s squad. The Lady Wolverines began the region slate with a loss to South Forsyth on a goal with seven seconds remaining, lost 3-2 to Milton, and then fell to Lambert in penalties.
One of West’s defining strengths in 2016 was its knack at prevailing in close contests, but 2017 has brought different fortunes.
The early portion of Tuesday’s game at West offered more frustration. After a scoreless first half marked by intense spells of rain, the Lady Wolverines dominated possession and chances out of the halftime break but couldn’t finish.
About 10 minutes into the second half, Carsen Parker had an open chance on the left side of the box but missed wide of the near post. Five minutes after that, Brooke Pirkle had a one-on-one chance but hit the crossbar with her strike.
“The frustrating part of how we lost (the earlier region games) was definitely killing our confidence over the past couple weeks,” Bay said. “… This helped boost our confidence, and it was a lot of fun, too."
But roughly a minute after Pirkle’s miss, Bay controlled a ball on the left side, deked a defender to clear space and broke the scoreless deadlock. Three minutes later, Meagan McInerney netted the Wolverines’ second goal, and Parker scored the third with five minutes left in the match.
The question remaining for West (4-4-0) is whether the Wolverines can convert Tuesday’s encouraging result into a run to the top of the region standings befitting the top-10 ranking they earned earlier in the season.
“We know we’re capable of it,” Bayush said.
Forsyth Central’s record fell to 4-4-0 with the loss.
In the boys game that followed, the Wolverines and Bulldogs exchanged goals in regulation, with Gavin Mitchell scoring for Central with 17 minutes left in the first half and Carlos Reyes equalizing for West with the same 17 minutes remaining in the second half.
The match went to a penalty kick shootout, which Central won 6-5 after Jorge Garcia made a foot save on Patrick Carter’s shot and Christian Patino converted the following kick.
The Wolverines’ record dropped to 1-7-0, with Central’s improving to 5-3-0.