First-year West Forsyth girls soccer coach Jason Galt may not have been there to see it, but his team’s second-round matchup with Grayson last season still cuts to the heart of everyone who was there.
The game was ultimately decided on a controversial goal that hit the football goalpost before bouncing in past goalkeeper A.J. Needham. On Tuesday, West was looking at a rematch with those same Rams to start the playoffs, and that sour history added some motivation.
“You hate to say revenge, but that's kind of what it is,” Galt said. “You get a chance at some redemption.”
Unlike their last meeting, though, West did enough offensively to make sure nothing like that would matter. The Wolverines got out to a fast start, but after Grayson cut their lead to one, they scored three goals over eight minutes in the second half to secure a 5-1 win. The victory made the 2019 team the third squad in the school’s relatively young history to win a playoff game, and with an overall record of 11-6, they’ve now tied for the second most wins in school history.
“(Grayson) scared me because they had good size (and) they're very athletic,” Galt said. “I felt like we played fast as a team. I've been preaching to the girls about give and go. They're starting to figure it out. I told the girls that it was the best game they've played all year.
“I liked our chances tonight. I didn't expect 5-1, but we'll take it.”
West held a 2-0 lead at halftime, but with 23:08 left, the Rams’ Jennifer Munger scored from the right side to draw to within one score, putting the outcome into question for the first time. Right after that score, Courtney Jebavy had two free kick attempts right in front of the penalty box. On the first, she passed it short to her left, but the ensuing shot went wide. Just a few minutes later, she got her second attempt from nearly the same spot, and found the corner to make it 3-1 with 17:07 to go.
“I noticed (the goalie) was standing directly behind the wall,” Jebavy said. “The far corner was open with no one in the way.”
Jebavy’s goal was only the beginning of West’s late surge. Rachel Hale took an assist from Ava Martin to score from the left side with 15:20 to play, and with 11:23 left, Amanda Ewers parlayed a bounce off the crossbar for the Wolverines’ four-point lead.
“You play games where you get a lot of chances and goals don't go in,” Galt said. “Tonight was the exact opposite. We were able to execute. Once we put that third goal in with the time on the clock, I felt pretty good.”
In the first half, Needham didn’t see much action in goal because West held most of the possession. The Wolverines attacked Grayson’s goal well and eventually broke through, with Emma Armstrong taking the ball off a couple of bounces and finding the right side of the net with 18:43 left in the first half. Eight minutes later, Savannah Booker weaved through two defenders and shot one in from about 20 yards out to make it 2-0 West, a lead they took into the action-packed second half.
“This year, we have a new team and we all came together,” Hale said. “I think we were more prepared for them this time.”
The Wolverines will travel to face North Gwinnett in the second round next Wednesday.